Tillicum Community Center is Still Active After Fire, Flood

A sprinkler system flooded the Tillicum Community Center two weeks ago, triggered by an electric fire. The water damage and needed repairs are extensive, although many of the center's programs are operating again.

Despite getting battered with water damage, the is still standing.

Most programs are running again, and organizers hope life at the center will return to normal.

But it’s going to need a facelift and some generosity from the public to help restore the center to its condition before July 29.

That’s when the sprinkler system at the center – located at 14916 Washington Ave. SW - flooded. A new light fixture sparked and started a fire, triggering the sprinklers.

The sprinklers doused the blaze before crews arrived, but the water damage is more extensive than initially thought. Several thousand gallons of water flooded the center before first responders could turn off the system. The water rose to more than a foot in places, and it soaked into the walls some 4 feet above the water level itself.

“We have a disaster here,” Executive Director Karen Priest said.

What exactly caused the fixture to malfunction is still unknown, she said.

What is known is that the past two weeks have been a flurry of repairs and maintaining whatever programs the center could.

The center's kitchen will need to be remodeled and much of the floor needs to be replaced to clean up the water underneath. The walls all require extensive repairs - the southern side of the community hall will have to be cut out. The center will also have to replace chairs, tables and carpeting.

Although the community hall has been closed since the incident, Priest wants to remind people that the center itself remains active.

The food bank is operating out of the back parking lot, and the Pierce County Library branch re-opened. The Sea Mar health clinic opened Monday. The WIC food services should also resume soon, and the annual Back to School Party took place Thursday.

Priest said she prioritized the library's re-opening last week because it was relatively undamaged and of huge importance to the community. For many in Tillicum, the library is a lifeline for information and entertainment.

“Internet access is very important,” said Jeannine Adams, the Pierce County Library's branch supervisor at the center. “The community center really extended themselves to get us up and running.”

The adjacent bathroom had to be demolished to reach a water-damaged wall, among other repairs. There was a long line of people waiting to get in on opening day.

The Pierce County Library System postponed late fees and continued to hold items while the Tillicum branch was closed.

Kendric Rollis, who lives in Tillicum, had 20 books on hold before the fire. He heard the books were safe, but he was still upset. The library is an important part of his daily life, though not even the facility's brief closure changed that.

“I read a lot of the books I already had” from the library, Rollis said.

The center is insured, but the total cost of the damages and what will be covered is unknown. Priest said organizers will hold a fundraiser once the remodel is done.

The Tillicum Community Center is still accepting donations for the food bank and other services.

Brent Champaco August 17, 2012 at 10:12 AM
Very good news. It's great to hear the center is still providing services.


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