Smoke damage at Sprague

The stage at the Sprague Community Theater is protected by heavy plastic as workers from Pacific Coast Restoration of Coos Bay clean to remove smoke damage caused after an element overheated Friday morning.

BANDON - Smoke damage has temporarily closed the Sprague Community Theater and city officials are saying they "dodged a proverbial bullet" in an incident that could have been much worse.

Friday, Feb. 1, at about 4:30 a.m., the Bandon Fire Department responded to an alarm from Gold Coast Security, the company that installed and maintains the fire alarm system at the Sprague. Theater manager Jeff Norris was also alerted by Gold Coast. 

Sprague Theater manager Jeff Norris exits the auditorium into the lobby where workers from Pacific Coast Restoration from Coos Bay have set up…

Upon arrival, Fire Chief Lanny Boston and firefighters discovered smoke had filled the auditorium and upper level of the theater where the sound and lighting equipment and theater office are located.

Norris said it was determined a belt had broken on a heating unit in a utility room next to the office. When he and Boston discovered the source, the unit was red-hot and had begun to melt the duct tape off the air ducts that run throughout the theater. Smoke apparently traveled through the ducts and infiltrated most areas of the theater. The smoke was heaviest in the auditorium and near the stage, Norris said, but he could smell smoke in most areas of the theater. The lobby suffered the least damage.

"When I got there, Lanny was already there and they were trying to get the smoke out of the theater," Norris said. "It was full of smoke upstairs and in the auditorium."

Norris said the smoke set off multiple alarms throughout the building.

"If we hadn't been there when we were, in another 30-45 minutes the heater would have burned up," Norris said. "I checked on the theater all weekend. That place is like a second home to me."

There were no flames present when they arrived at the theater, he added. 

On Friday, the city's insurance agent for the Sprague, Joseph Bain of Bain Insurance, was also at the theater assessing the damage, which is covered by the city's policy. That day, a crew arrived from Pacific Coast Restoration in Coos Bay and set up six air filtration machines that ran all weekend. On Monday, a crew of about 12 people began cleaning the carpets, walls and auditorium seats, among other surfaces. They closed off most openings with heavy plastic.

Norris, with the help of two workers, took down all the curtains on the stage and they were shipped to Stagecraft Industries in Portland for a quote on how much it will cost to have them cleaned. He was told some of the curtains are so old and worn that they might need to be replaced rather than cleaned. 

"That's a problem," Norris said. "Because I was told by Stagecraft that they would need to not only be cleaned but also re-treated with fire retardant and there is only one company, in New York City, that does that. The curtains were originally purchased from Stagecraft more than 18 years ago, and the company still has all the specifications. Norris, who is a tailor by trade, has fixed many rips and tears over the 18 years of the stage's curtains.

A worker from Pacific Coast Restoration cleans the windows and walls in the lobby of the Sprague Theater on Tuesday morning, after smoke cause…

Only two companies in the nation make stage curtains, Norris added. All of the theater lighting will also have to be taken down and cleaned as well as the light board and sound equipment.

The heater will be replaced and the air ducts will either be cleaned or replaced. 

Two concerts that were scheduled for this weekend had to be changed. Bandon Showcase decided to reschedule the Halie Loren jazz concert from Friday, Feb. 7, to Friday, June 7, at the Sprague. The Trinity Alps classical concert, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 9, has moved to a different venue, the Old Langlois Cheese Factory, where the group has performed previously. That concert begins at 7 p.m.

Other events, including a Bandon School District-hosted choir festival, will have to be relocated too, as Norris said he doesn't know how long it will take to get the theater cleaned up.

New Artists Productions youth theater is set to open the musical "Mary Poppins Junior" on March 15 for two weekends at the Sprague. 

The Barn had a similar issue a couple of years ago in which it also suffered smoke damage. Both Norris and City Manager Robert Mawson said it will likely be at least a month before the theater can be reopened.

"There's no way to tell how long this will take to clean up," Norris said. 

Opened in September 2000, the Sprague Community Theater was built by members of the Bandon Lions Club, led by members Dan Almich and Ray Kelley, who put much of the structure together with volunteer labor and paid for it with donations and grants from many in the community. It was named the Sprague Community Theater following a sizable grant from the Sprague Foundation, whose founders are related to Bandon residents Elizabeth and Kirk Day. The Sprague Foundation continues to award smaller grants yearly to be used for the Sprague.

Since opening, the theater has been regularly utilized by various local and touring performing arts groups, featuring theater, dance and music and has been the site for lectures, meetings, films and other events. The Barn/Bandon Community Center located next to the Sprague, is sometimes used in conjunction with the theater. The Bandon Public Library, located just north of the Sprague, completes the set of city-owned public buildings in Bandon City Park.

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Bandon Western World Editor Amy Moss Strong can be reached at 541-347-2423, ext. 305, or by email at amy.moss-strong@theworldlink.com. Follow Bandon Western World on Facebook.