Fire officials were called to the Kimball Visual Arts building Thursday night due to a fire in the building’s woodshop.
Around 8 p.m. campus officials, firefighters and students surrounded the Kimball Arts building. A photography class on the second floor evacuated when they heard the alarms.
“It was nice and quiet and we were working on our stuff and then all of a sudden the fire alarms started blaring,” said Gabriel LaDue, a Weber State University student. “We started smelling smoke and a police car showed up and we realized it was serious.”
Battalion Chief of the Ogden City Fire Department Steve Splinter said smoldering sawdust was sucked into the building’s exhaust system, causing smoke to distribute throughout the building.
“We had to cut some access points in the piping where the sawdust was smoldering to put water on it,” he said. No machines or equipment was damaged in the accident. Along with fire officials, Weber State maintenance helped secure the building. There were no injuries or damages outside of the woodshop area.
Professor Kent Ripplinger was teaching class when the alarms started to sound.
“Smart people grabbed their cameras, but the rest of us left our stuff upstairs,” Ripplinger said. Later when Ripplinger and his students were allowed back in, he said there was a heavy smell of smoke in the building.
Jacob Cain, Director of Operations for facilities management said the entire extent of the damage is unknown at this time. Officials need to evaluate the smoke damage and the damage that occurred in the shop’s vents. Because the vents are metal there isn’t much physical damage from the smoldering, however damage from the smoke will probably be substantial, according to Cain.
“We need to vent out the building and get all the smoke out and that will give us a chance to check for smoke damage,” Cain said.
The smoldering sawdust made it 30 to 40 feet down the vent according to Cain. While this kind of incident has the potential to happen, it doesn’t happen often, Cain said.
“We’ll do a thorough investigation to find out everything we can just to verify the cause,” he said.
“It’s apparent that there was no malicious intent with the incident, and it was a freak accident that rarely happens,” Cain said.
He estimated that the initial cleanup of the building would be done within the same night, but repairing the physical damages will take place in the next week or two. The smoke damage will take the longest to fix, due to the fact that it can be challenging to know how far the damage went.
Cain reassured that everything will be repaired and ready for use long before fall semester begins this August. “We have plenty of time to work through these issues.”