Fire evacuates county courthouse

County workers evacuated the Eau Claire County Courthouse after a fire there Tuesday afternoon. The courthouse will likely remain closed through Wednesday, said an official at the scene.

The Eau Claire Fire Department responded at about noon to the fire, which was contained inside a vault on the west side of the building. Fire Department Battalion Chief Dave Okas said a transformer inside the vault caught fire, but said he wasn’t sure of the cause.

The fire department called Xcel Energy to shut down the transformer before firefighters put out the flames, Okas said. Once the transformer was shut down, Okas said it took firefighters several minutes to put out the flames using a chemical extinguisher.

“Everything went off very well,” Sheriff Ron Cramer said of the response to the fire. “It was very well coordinated.”

Okas said the fire didn’t go outside the vault, but said smoke traveled into the building through the ventilation system. He also said the fire caused power outages and that the building was powered afterward by a pair of backup generators.

The building’s approximately 120 secure jail inmates were not evacuated, Cramer said, though a group of inmates were moved within the building to escape the smoke. Cramer said the inmates were not in jeopardy.

The courthouse’s communication center personnel also stayed inside the building, Okas said.

Oscar Brandser, an Xcel account manager who was at the scene Tuesday, said Xcel will replace the transformer.