The halls of the chemistry building are still covered with protective material in the aftermath of a fire which occurred several days ago. Photo by Steven Lee.

A small fire resulted in water damage from the sprinklers 

Two sprinkler heads in the Beaupre Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences building caused water damage after being set off following an accidental chemical reaction in a second-floor lab on Sept. 18.

As part of an experiment, chemicals were left overnight in a refrigerator. However, the refrigerator was not equipped to store the chemicals, which caused a small fire. The fire department responded to the building’s box alarm, which results in an automatic dispatch, shortly after 10 p.m. Nobody was in the building at the time of the fire.

According to Deputy Fire Chief Tom Reed, an investigation was conducted upon arrival to discover where the sprinkler flow was coming from and what the source of the fire was. The fire was not an active fire and was confined to the refrigerator and the area immediately surrounding it. However, because it triggered the sprinkler heads, water began quickly flooding the floors of the building. 

“When you have a sprinkler head putting out 15 gallons a minute and operating for ten minutes times two sprinkler heads, that’s a lot of water,” Reed said. 

Beaupre, as a center for chemical sciences, has to follow regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which includes prohibition of floor drains in an effort to prevent hazardous wastes from being accidentally released into sewer systems. Due to this regulation, there was nowhere for the water to go, which led to the water damage.

“It was essentially raining in the labs on the first floor,” said Samuel Adams, the director of Emergency Management.  

The water had permeated from the second floor through the first floor ceiling and into the basement. This resulted in a large scale cleanup that had to be conducted by a third-party company. Due to the cleanup, classes in the building had to be cancelled the following day.

Though the water damage was extensive throughout the building, there was some smoke damage in the immediate room in which the reaction occurred. DJ Demers, a junior nursing student, was one of the firefighters dispatched to Beaupre that night.

“We masked up and had to search two rooms under heavy smoke condition,” Demers said. 

Adams applauded the “excellent response” by the campus’s emergency services. The lab had been inspected previously, but the refrigerator was brought in specially for the experiment and it had not been part of the inspection. 

“We’re taking active measures to eliminate the possibility for this particular type of accident happening again,” Adams said. “We take lab safety very seriously on our campus.” 

Before the fire had even occurred, President David Dooley approved the future addition of staff in the lab safety office, specifically in lab inspection, due to the growth of the number of labs on campus.