Fire destroys public works building at Camp Henry
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — A fire that roared through an office building Thursday at Camp Henry in Daegu gutted the one-story structure and brought a large number of South Korean fire units to the aid of the Army’s firefighters, authorities said.
One Daegu city firefighter sustained an ankle injury when he slipped on icy pavement while helping fight the blaze, a city fire department official said. He was treated at a local hospital and released.
No other injuries were reported in the blaze, which broke out in the unoccupied building sometime before 7:25 a.m., about a half-hour before the official start of work.
The tan stucco structure, Building 1510, housed the Area IV Support Activity’s public works department. About 30 employees worked there.
“The building’s a total loss,” said Area IV public works chief James C. Hamilton. “One hundred percent gone. Exterior walls for the most part remain, but the roof was fully engulfed in flames and collapsed inside the building.”
Camp Henry officials’ preliminary estimate put damage at $2.8 million, said Area IV Support Activity spokesman Galen Putnam.
The fire started in a mechanical room, which contains a furnace, and quickly spread throughout the structure, Putnam said.
Investigators were working Thursday to pin down what caused the fire, he said.
Some 18 fire vehicles and almost 50 firefighters from Daegu’s Jungbu district joined Area IV firefighters from camps Henry, Walker and Carroll to battle the blaze for more than three hours in cold, windy weather. Camp Walker is in Daegu. Camp Carroll is in Waegwan, about a 30-minute drive north of Daegu.
The Daegu firefighters responded under a standing agreement between the city and the Support Activity to provide mutual fire aid if requested.
The fire was out by 10:45 a.m.
Area IV officials said Wednesday afternoon that they could not immediately supply figures on how many Area IV vehicles and firefighters responded.
Post officials closed the Camp Henry main gate to vehicles and pedestrians from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. At 8 a.m., they evacuated the block-long headquarters of the 19th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), formerly the 19th Theater Support Command, to protect workers there from smoke. The headquarters is about 50 feet from the public works building, separated by a parking lot, said Maj. Catherine L. Morelle-Oliveira, the command’s spokeswoman.
The command’s operations continued at a nearby location and employees were allowed to re-enter the command’s headquarters by 3:30 p.m. But most had been released from work earlier in the day because of a holiday season half-day schedule this week.
The public works department will set up interim offices in Building 1369, Hamilton said.
“We’re hoping by next Tuesday we should be up and running, providing the full range of DPW services,” he said. “That will be our customer service center, once we get it fully functional.”
“Today, we allowed most people to go home,” Hamilton said. “We’re trying to salvage whatever we can from the building … . There’s a lot of water damage, smoke damage … and some parts of the building were completely destroyed.”
Firefighters were to remain at the fire scene overnight Wednesday, Putnam said, “to ensure that there’s no hot spots or flare-ups.”
Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.