LAURINBURG — City officials said some “out-dated” equipment could have caused a major fire at the W. Charles Barrett Administration Building.
Workers inside the Church Street building began “to smell something burning” around 2:30 p.m. Friday and called the Laurinburg Fire Department. Firefighters discovered a smoldering battery backup inside an electronics closet at the Barrett Building.
“Our fire chief said if it had happened two or three hours later and we wouldn’t have been around to smell it, the batteries would have melted throughout the weekend and probably burned the building down,” City Manager Charles Nichols said. “It takes it a long time to get hot, but once it gets started, those fires are extremely hard to put out.”
Josh Coble, the city’s computer systems administrator, said the 2001 battery backup is used in cases of power loss.
“Long story short, it just malfunctioned,” Coble said. “There was nothing plugged into it. I assume the electronics actually went bad in it. You can see how the batteries had started to swell up much like a swollen old cellphone battery.”
Unchecked, the equipment would have caused major damage, according to Coble.
“It would have caught fire, most definitely,” he said. “There is no doubt about that.”
Coble added that the older equipment in the closet has been replaced.
“I think we were very lucky that it happened when it did,” Nichols said.
The Barrett Building, located across from the Laurinburg Municipal Building, houses the city manager, city clerk and several city departments.
Reach editor Scott Witten at 910-506-3023