A generator fire broke out in an enclosure behind the Clatsop Care Center Friday around noon. Local maintenance workers contained the flame before firefighters arrived.

That morning the generator, which powers the whole building in the event of an emergency, had undergone some routine maintenance. Marsha Huggins, maintenance manager for the building, started the generator later in the day to test it, and left it running, but not powering the building, while she attended to other things.

As she came down to the generator again, the building was filled with a rumbling sound. Anita Schacher, administrator for the center, said she heard the rumbling one floor above where the generator was located and noticed smoke out the window.

"I said, 'I think we're preparing for takeoff,'" Schacher said.

Huggins told employees to call the fire department while she took a fire extinguisher into the enclosure.

"I just went in, saw where the fire was, crouched down, went in and shot it," Huggins said.

Afterward, firefighters discovered that a piston had broken and ruptured the hydraulics container. The hydraulic fluid spilled out and ignited.

The purple lubricant leaked out of the back of the building and formed a large puddle that firefighters cleaned up afterwards.

The generator is nonfunctional now, and Fire Marshal Mike Jackson estimated that the accident caused $30,000 in damage.

"If we have to replace (the generator) it's going to be very expensive," Schacher said.

There was no indication as to what exactly caused the piston to break.

Jackson said that everything went very well and credited the facility's emergency training sessions.

"Their folks are trained twice a year," Jackson said. "This is a good example of that."

After the firefighters left, Huggins, the reluctant hero of the day, sat down with a Pepsi to enjoy a moment of quiet.


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