A fire starting in the engine compartment of a parked snowplow truck destroyed that vehicle and caused substantial damage to the Beaver Creek county shop building and other snowplows Sunday, Jan. 27.
“The snowplow was a total loss,” says west-end Sanders County Commissioner Tony Cox. He explained that because there were walls separating three different bays, the fire had not spread through the entire building, but the heat scorched tires, lights, decals and even interiors on some of the other trucks, and there was significant smoke damage throughout. One truck had a partially melted seat.
The truck that caught fire had been parked in the shop at 10 a.m. the previous Friday. Trucks are loaded with traction gravel and then parked in the heated shop so the gravel is not frozen and can be disbursed on the next run.
A passing motorist called in the fire when they saw smoke pouring from the building and an electric door that apparently was shorting out, as it was going up and down. Quick response from Thompson Falls and Trout Creek Rural Fire Departments, some of whom were also employees of the county shop, got the fire knocked down and two trucks moved to prevent more damage. They used a front-end loader to peel back a door when the electric opener was damaged from the heat.
Cox says they should be able to keep up with the plowing of county roads, though it might take a little longer each snowfall.
“We had to scramble to find enough trucks and shop capacity to store them,” said Cox.
The county is now operating three trucks from the Heron shop, two from Beaver Creek, and two from Noxon, where Avista and Montana Department of Transportation are loaning garage space.
“We hope people will be understanding if the plows don’t run exactly on the schedule you’re used to. We will still get the school bus routes first,” Cox said.
Insurance investigators have not yet determined the cause of the fire.