Volume 90, Issue 80

Friday, February 14, 1997

Show Pony


Smoking up with the 'Geers

By Jeff Badger
Gazette Staff

Fire in the hole! No wait, smoke in a box, that's it.

Smoke is what caused the engineering building to be evacuated for nearly half an hour yesterday starting at 2:40 p.m., said Const. Steven Middleton of the University Police Department.

"This was really a case of an experiment that went bad," said Middleton. "The [London] Fire Department came but they were not used."

The problem was with a heat transfer experiment which consisted of a heater contained in an air-tight insulated box the size of a small closet, explained Marian Jaworski, technical supervisor of mechanical laboratories for the department of engineering. A temperature controller outside the box was used to monitor the temperature inside, he explained.

Complaints were made about an odour in the hallways outside of Rm. 2046, the room in which the experiment was contained. Jaworski investigated the situation and determined the odour had to be coming from the box.

Jaworski said upon opening the box he observed the electric heater had fallen down and melted the styrofoam insulation. "It was odd that the smell was stronger in the corridor than inside the room," Jaworski said.

"We evacuated the entire building – with the fumes in the air there was a concern about safety," Western's chief fire prevention officer, Peter Roberts, said. "The experiment was sealed completely – there was no open burning."

He speculated that if oxygen had been available to the area, a much more serious fire could have resulted. "The room is being sealed off and a further investigation will commence Friday morning," Roberts said.

Jaworski could not comment on how the fire started or what caused the heater to be knocked over. "The power had been off since Saturday, so nothing should have been working," he said. "Nothing is certain, but in my opinion there may have been something wrong with the temperature controller." The temperature controller was the only thing plugged in at the time.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997