Courthouse closed after fire scare

MARIETTA – A smoking computer led to the eventual closing of the Washington County Courthouse to the public just before noon Monday as power to the facility had to be shut off to help determine the source of the overheated equipment.

“We’d had a power outage and my computer shut off. When I turned the computer back on it started to smoke and there was an electrical burning smell,” said Mark Kerenyi, juvenile court magistrate, whose office is on the third floor of the courthouse annex.

The Marietta Fire Department was notified around 11 a.m. and had the courthouse evacuated while firefighters checked the main building and annex for other possible electrical overloads.

Fire Capt. Marc Coppernoll said no other issues were found, but noted areas of the building had no electrical service while the power remained on in other locations.

“We recommended cutting all power to the building until (American Electric Power) could get here and make sure it wasn’t a feed problem on their end,” he said.

Coppernoll said he was concerned another piece of equipment could become overheated if the power was left on.

“That’s an old building, and we were worried that something else could start a fire in another part of the courthouse,” he said.

Because the electricity had to be cut off, most courthouse employees were told to go home, and the building was closed to the public for the rest of the day.

The courthouse was not the only facility without power, according to AEP Ohio spokeswoman Vikki Michaelski, who said 49 customers in the downtown area of Marietta had reported outages.

She said an AEP crew that responded to the scene discovered an animal had come in contact with one of the three phase power lines feeding that area and caused the service interruption.

“All of the customers affected had power restored by 12:28 p.m.,” Michaelski said.

Washington County Commissioner Ron Feathers, who was at the courthouse when the outage occurred, said once power was restored the building was checked for any more electrical problems before IT director Gerry Lockhart brought computer systems back online.

“We had the power back on a little after 12:30 p.m., but then it took about an hour to get the equipment back up and running,” Feathers said.

He noted the courthouse elevator would not be placed back in service until a technician from the elevator company could check that equipment.

Feathers said employees were not called back after the power was restored because it would have been too difficult to reach everyone on such short notice after they had been dismissed for the day.

The courthouse was expected to be open during regular business hours today.