Port Washington Skating Center reopens after fire

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The newly refurbished ice rink at the Port Washington Skating Center. (Courtesy of the PWSC Facebook page)

North Shore residents looking to stay cool this summer can once again hit the ice, as the Port Washington Skating Center reopened last week after a fire in May.

“The heat caused significant damage to the electrical and refrigeration systems,” said Kristian Nielsen, the program director at the rink. “It took awhile to make those repairs.”

The rink’s ice resurfacing machine caught fire shortly after 8 p.m. on May 24, during a youth hockey game. Everyone in the building was evacuated quickly and nobody inside the rink was harmed (a firefighter who responded did suffer minor injuries).

Everyone reacted quickly and calmly and proceeded to the exit,” Nielsen said. “That was our biggest concern, making sure everyone got out safely.”

Once the Port Washington Fire Department doused the flames, the biggest concern became getting the Skating Center up and running again.

The rink’s electrical and refrigeration systems are housed in an elevated room above where the resurfacing machine was stored, so even though the fire was limited to a small area it affected the most critical part of the building.

Nielsen said the refrigeration system, in particular, suffered extensive damage requiring several technicians to fix it.

Once that system was back online, the ice on the rink itself had to be restored after a few weeks of deterioration. Nielsen said repairs to the refrigeration the main reason why it took six weeks to reopen.

Firefighters also drilled holes in the roof of the building to let smoke escape. Roofing in these areas also had to be replaced.

May’s incident was actually the second time that one of the rink’s ice resurfacing machines caught fire.

Twelve years ago on New Year’s Eve, another ice resurfacing machine caught fire in the same spot. On that occasion, though, the propane tank on the machine exploded, causing great structural damage to the building.

Issues with the propane tank also led to the fire on this occasion, although firefighters were able to put out the flames before the tanks could explode.

Following those two incidents, Nielsen said the Port Skating Center has switched to an electric-powered ice resurfacing machine.

“We’re gonna go with an electric Zamboni so there’s no flammable components,” Nielsen said.

The rink will continue to hold hockey and skating camps throughout the summer. The rink is open for free skate on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon and on Sunday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at ltorrance@theislandnow.com, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.

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