BEALE AFB (CBS13) – Officials say it ranks as one of the biggest fires in the 65-year history of Beale Air Force base.
Crews battled flare-ups for hours, but by nightfall as smoke billowed into the air, it was clear: the gigantic, two-story civil engineering building was lost.
“Our electrical shop, our structural shop, those were two of the shops that we lost,” said Deputy Base Civil Engineer Greg Capra. “The base will continue to operate; we do have contingencies in place.”
Normally about 200 people work in the building, but since it was a holiday, a base spokesman says just one employee was inside when the fire started this afternoon. He got out OK, but one firefighter was rushed to the hospital with minor injuries after something fell on his head.
“Had it a been a normal day there would’ve been more people inside; I don’t know that we would’ve had any quicker response,” said Capra
A spokesman says the building dates back to the 1940′s. It’s undergone several renovations over the years, but its sprinkler system only covers some of the rooms.
Materials here for electrical. plumbing and woodworking are destroyed. But what’s most precious is preserved.
“There’s special vaults for classified documents that guarantee the classified information is protected,” said Captain Brian Wagner.
Beale says there will be minor impacts, but base operations will continue normally.
Still, 200 people are displaced and will be forced to work elsewhere — some for the first time in decades.
“We have some folks that have been in the building 30 years that’ll have several mementos lost, and it’s been their home for a long time,” said Capra. “They take great pride in what they do here.”