Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 17:15:21 -0400
Reply-To: Ralph Stuart <rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Ralph Stuart <rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Subject: Delahanty Fire Lessons Learned
Comments: To: SAFETY

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  

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

By Michael Wood-Lewis,, support**At_Symbol_Here**
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  

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.

Thomas Middleton,
Assistant Fire Marshal
Burlington Fire Department


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