Thanks to everyone who responded to my e-mail inquiry this morning about Teflon combustion products. I"ll provide a summary of the responses in a separate e-mail. Below is an e-mail I sent to the UVM lab community summarizing some of the lessons learned from the incident and a report from a local neighborhood e-mail newsletter about the Fire Department's activities. I'd like to note that the person who was in the building had just completed 40 HAZWOPER training with us (in an academic class) this semester and I'd like to think that her response to the emergency was partly a result of being well-educated ;)... - Ralph As you are likely to have seen in the paper or other media, there was a fire yesterday in a Geology laboratory in Delehanty Hall. The Fire Department's summary below is generally accurate. The cause of the fire appears to have been an electrical malfunction in the equipment being used. There are several key lessons to be learned from the incident that I'd like to highlight for the UVM lab community: 1. There was a person in the building when the fire alarm went off. She was in a laboratory across the hall, but exited the building immediately as soon as the alarm (triggered by the sprinkler system) sounded. This protected not only herself, but fire fighters who would have been required to rescue her if she had still been in the building. 2. The fire was limited to the laboratory hood in which it started. This is because the sprinkler system activated in the area of the hood, but also because of the excellent housekeeping and chemical storage practices of the workers in this laboratory. There were no chemicals in the hood other than those involved in the process and therefore the spread of the fire was not abetted by other chemicals becoming involved. 3. The workers in the laboratory were able to come to the scene and provide critical information about the chemicals present in the laboratory to the fire fighters in command of the incident. This information was critical in assessing potential hazards present and allowed the state Hazmat team to develop an effective plan of action for controlling those hazards. As noted above, excellent housekeeping in the laboratory limited the spread of the hazard in the sprinkler water. We are still evaluating the potential environmental health concerns associated with the residue of the fire, which is primarily soot in the lab itself. Sprinkler water damaged several rooms on the first and second floors of the building, but fortunately, during the first inspection of the building, most scientific equipment appeared to have been missed by the water. Let me know if you have any questions about this. - Ralph FIRE ON UVM'S TRINITY CAMPUS By Michael Wood-Lewis,, support**At_Symbol_Here**frontporchforum.com Mon, 28 May 2007 This just in from the Fire Marshal... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Second Alarm Fire at UVM Laboratory. Fourteen firefighters and one Police Officer injured May 28, 2007 At 0932 AM, the Burlington Fire Department received a radio box alarm for Delehanty Hall at the University of Vermont, indicating a general alarm and a sprinkler flow alarm. First arriving units found thick black smoke coming from a smokestack on the roof of the three story building. With the Memorial Day holiday, the building was not occupied at the time of the fire. Upon reaching the third floor, the crew from Engine Three found a room fully charged with black smoke, and water flowing under the door. Crouching low in the smoke-filled hallway, the crew donned their protective masks and attached a fire hose to the stand pipe in a nearby stairwell. They opened the door and were met with heavy fire conditions rolling across the ceiling at them. The fire sprinkler system had activated and was keeping the fire at bay, but the ventilation hood above the fire was blocking the sprinkler water from reaching the seat of the fire even as it worked to vent the toxic gas out of the building. The water flowing from the sprinkler system had sapped the available pressure from the stand pipe supplying water to their hose line. Firefighters had to back out of the fire area until supplemental water could be pumped into the system by an engine company through the fire department connection. With adequate water pressure, the crews were able to gain entry into the fire room, and extinguish the fire. The firefighters ascertained that this fire was actually in a chemical laboratory and that several unknown chemicals had been involved. They evacuated the building and with assistance from both the UVM and Burlington Police, a cordon was established to prevent further exposure. Several firefighters and one University of Vermont Police Officer were experiencing burning sensations on their skin and in their eyes. Many of them had knelt in the standing water, and some had inhaled some of the smoke briefly before donning their air masks. In all, fourteen firefighters and one UVM Police Officer underwent gross decontamination at the scene and then transported to Fletcher Allen Health Care. Fletcher Allen staff set up their hazmat decontamination station, and the patients were more thoroughly decontaminated prior to entry into the emergency department. The Police Officer and all of the firefighters were evaluated, treated, and later returned to duty. Through interviews with UVM staff, fire officials learned that an unknown quantity of hydrofluoric acid and a very small quantity of percloric acid were being used to dissolve quartz over time in an un- manned experiment. Several other chemicals were present in the room, but were not involved in this process. The Vermont State Hazmat Team responded to the scene, along with a decontamination team from the South Burlington Fire Department. The Hazmat team entered the fire area and determined that the air present in the area did not contain dangerous gasses. Samples of standing water on the floor were determined to be ph neutral. A team from the Burlington Fire Marshal‚s Office entered the area in protective equipment and determined that the fire was not suspicious. The exact cause of the fire remains unknown, as much of the equipment involved was consumed by the fire and that which survived was contaminated. The last units cleared the scene by 1920 hours. Damage from the fire was limited to the room of origin, however the smoke, toxic residue and contaminated water in the building caused damage estimated at over one million dollars. Contact: Thomas Middleton, Assistant Fire Marshal Burlington Fire Department (802)864-5577 --------------------------------------------- Copyright 2007 Front Porch Forum. All rights reserved.
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