A lab fire in the Physical Sciences North Building caused minor damage and forced an evacuation early Thursday morning.
Fire Safety Specialist Dave Vandenberg said the fire probably started when water reactant chemicals in the area escaped their containers and came into contact with moisture in the air.
“There were some flammable liquids and some water reactants involved,” he said.
Campus Fire Marshal John Kennedy said he and Vandenberg found no signs of negligence and that the chemicals were properly stored.
“The chemicals were stored in round-bottomed flasks, typical of this type of chemical, so [the experimenters] were not being unsafe,” he said.
An alarm in a nearby bathroom activated, and it contacted the Fire Dept. at 5:58 a.m. Engine 17 responded within minutes and began to extinguish the flames. Hazardous chemical specialists, Buellton’s HASMAT team and Environmental Health Services were also called because the Fire Dept. did not initially know what chemicals were involved in the fire.
The building was nearly empty, preventing any injury and easing the evacuation process.
“Had this occurred in the daytime when students are in the building, it would have caused a greater problem because we would have had to have additional units for evacuation,” Buellton Battalion Chief Dave Bianchi said.
The lab, Room 2658, suffered minimal damage, including a scorched lab bench, one burnt wall and a few burnt fluorescent light covers, along with water damage caused by sprinklers and fire hoses.
The Fire Dept. dispatched a total of six fire engines and had the fire completely extinguished by 6:20 a.m. The automatic sprinkler system helped contain the fire quickly, Kennedy said.
“If we had not had these sprinklers, we would have had great fire damage to this lab and surrounding labs,” he said. “By the time this fire would have been discovered, the flames would be going out the windows. The Fire Dept. would have had to use considerably more water, thousands of gallons more, so you can see the benefit of this system.”