This situation happened to, yes you guessed it, me when I was in the Officer’s seat for a few hours and we went shopping. We were so close to this alarm that we were on scene and in pump before the dispatch was completed.
On the surface we have a 3 story type 5 (Balloon frame ordinary construction) with similar buildings on both sides, 1/8″ apart not allowing for the “hot lap” so sought after in classes.
Soon after my firefighter shut down the power to the buzzing elevator box, my immediate concern was for what was behind the wall the box was bolted to and where the elevator motor room was.
As the balance of the box alarm assignment began to arrive I updated the Battalion Chief that we had no fire so far, but were checking for extension of an electrical box to an elevator control. Our truck companies carry Thermal Imaging Cameras (TIC) and we certainly needed one since this box turned out to be mounted on an exterior wall, meaning the only access was through the interior wall of the building next door.
Until we could confirm there was no extension, this situation gets the bulk of the resources assigned to it.
Behind all the clothes and storage was the elevator motor room, which was indeed charged with smoke, almost hiding the burnt out motor and smoldering wires. The electrical conduit served as a tiny chimney for the small motor room and was the reason the garage smoke seemed so light. The motor had faulted, causing the electrical box to trip. It was warm, but not hot, but the conduit fastened to the outside of the wall was hotter and was a bright white on the TIC.
If you said continue the assignment until confirmation of conditions, you made the right call.