On Tuesday, Oct. 22, a small fire occurred in the Tiger’s Den. No people were in the Tiger’s Den at the time. The fire was the result of a malfunction with a high voltage electrical panel in the mechanical room adjacent to the bar.
The mechanical room does not have sprinklers, although the remainder of the Tiger’s Den does. When a fire starts, a piece of plastic in the sprinkler head melts, signaling a release of water. According to Ivan Pendergast, safety specialist in the Department of Environmental Health and Safety, sprinklers will not always completely put out a fire but can help contain it.
A slight odor still permeates the Tiger’s Den. Pendergast attributed putting the fire out to two men: Johnny Peà±a, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technician, and Martin Chapa, electrician.
“These two men have saved the university a lot of money with their quick response,” Pendergast said.
The university uses a building automation system called Automated Logic to monitor air handling units across campus. An air handling unit is located inside the Tiger’s Den mechanical room in addition to other areas of campus. Automated Logic alerted Peà±a to an error and he went to the Tiger’s Den to investigate.
“I went to the mechanical room to troubleshoot,” Peà±a said. “Then I got in contact with Chapa when I realized we needed an electrician.”
When Chapa came to Tiger’s Den to meet with Peà±a, he opened the door to the mechanical room and the electrical panel caught fire. The pair turned off the breaker that feeds the wing. The overheated electrical panel, according to Peà±a and Chapa, was bound to catch fire eventually. Coincidentally, it caught fire when the door to the mechanical room was opened.
“It was going to catch fire at some point,” Chapa said. “It really was only a matter of time and it was fortunate that we were in the Tiger’s Den when it did.”
Two fire extinguishers were used to quell the flames, which were contained within the mechanical room. Pendergast said this was fast and necessary action on the part of Chapa and Peà±a. He also said that when there is smoke, these kinds of fire still leave a “nasty soot.”
“We spend a significant amount of time stressing drills and how people can safely evacuate when a fire happens,” Pendergast said. “There is some fire extinguisher training periodically on the Esplanade or with RA training.”
Pendergast said that the university holds personal safety above all else.
“It is far easier to replace a building and material objects than to replace a human being,” Pendergast said.
Students, faculty and staff were evacuated as a precaution from Campus Publications and Campus and Community Involvement. They were allowed to return to those locations shortly afterwards.