Near disaster in Geary
The remodeling of the Geary Theatre almost started immediately when a light switch started on fire shortly after a performance of “Les Miserables” ended Oct. 22.
Corey Ewan, Brett Innes and a half dozen students were leaving through the front of the Geary Theatre lobby about 11:30 p.m. when someone smelled smoke. Ewan and Innes traced the smoke to the ticket office where they saw sparks and smoke coming from a light switch.
Innes knew the fire extinguisher was on the stage so immediately ran after it. He called 911 and within minutes, the Geary Theatre was surrounded by Price City Police Department vehicles and fire trucks.
Innes said it took three times of squirting the chemical from the fire extinguisher on the fire before it was totally extinguished. The chemicals covered the furniture, walls and floors of the lobby.
By the time firefighters arrived, Innes had put the fire out. Fire Chief Paul Bedont used a thermo-imaging camera to check if the fire spread throughout the walls.
One of the firefighters said he would have no idea how to fight a fire in such an open area like the theater if it had spread. Another problem the fire fighters found were the breaker switches in the electrical box were not labeled. When they tried to turn the power off to the building, it became a guessing game.
Innes said the building was completed in 1961 and the electrical system is circa that era.
The electrical wires are coated with paper and asbestos, making them highly flammable, which if it caught on fire could spread quickly at that time of night. He said the wiring is definitely not up to 2014 code.
By the next morning, an electrician rewired the switch, the carpets were cleaned and the theatre department personnel wiped down all the walls, windows and furniture. The fire department provided large fans to clear the smoke from the building.
By 7:30 that night, the eighth production of Les Miz went on without a hitch.