building evacuated after small lab explosion
Wednesday, October 21, 2009 11:52 AM MDT)
A small explosion in a state environmental lab Tuesday
forced the temporary evacuation of a building that houses the Department
of Public Health and Human Services, and has prompted the agency to
review its procedures. Officials said the explosion in an "oven type"
device at about 9:45 a.m. prompted an evacuation for about an hour. One
worker was taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries after
the event, which took place on the second floor of the Cogswell
Building. The worker was tossed against a wall by the explosion,
officials said. The Helena Fire Department was investigating the
incident, trying to determine a cause. Officials said no chemicals were
ever released from the lab, and the explosion did not threaten any other
workers. DPHHS said its laboratory testing procedures will be reviewed.
"At this point, our number one concern is for the safety of our
employees," DPHHS director Anna Whiting Sorrell said. "We're going to
work very hard to ensure something like this doesn't happen again." The
explosion occurred when an employee was undertaking a routine water
quality test using samples mixed with methanol. Glass containers with
the samples were placed in the drying oven that then exploded. The
employee was following prescribed methods, which will now be reviewed.
Damage was estimated at about $2,000.
October 21, 2009
INVESTIGATION FINDS CAUSE
FOR HELENA EXPLOSION
By KFBB News Team
Published: Oct 20, 2009 at 5:21 PM MDT
Story Updated: Oct 20, 2009 at 7:05 PM
For workers at Helena=92s Cogswell Building, which
houses the Department of Public Health and Human Services, a typical
Tuesday morning was interrupted in an unexpected way.
DeYong, who works in the building, says it was =93a normal day working
at our computers, and someone came in and said that the fire department
was here for an explosion evacuation.=94
Kelly, Battalion Chief for the Helena Fire Department, explains, =93At
approximately 9:45 this morning we received a call of a minor explosion
at the Cogswell Building. We responded and sent a crew inside. There was
a small fire involved. They put it out with an extinguisher prior to our
arrival They were doing some processes in the laboratory in one of the
The explosion injured one
woman after she was tossed against a wall. She was taken to St. Peter=92s
Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.
Surrounding roads were temporarily blocked off, and the
entire building was evacuated as a precaution.
says, =93I assumed that it was a drill. I didn=92t know that it was
actually an explosion that had happened in the lab.=94
says, =93We evacuated the building. We let everybody back in about
10:30, just purely precautionary. Our primary concern was fire and
Officials say no chemicals were ever released from the
Kelly explains, =93The crew that we sent in are part
of our hazardous materials team, so they have the experience and the
monitoring and that=92s how they determined it was clear. Our fire
marshall and deputy fire marshall are doing an investigation. The
state=92s doing an investigation.=94
The investigation determined
that the explosion was caused by a flammable liquid, called methyl
alcohol, that was being used to process algae samples within the
confines of a laboratory-type oven.