Campus roof fire challenges firefighters

The Daily News


The hardest part of putting out the fire on the roof of the heating and cooling plant on Friday was finding the best angle to start.

Mark Adams, a battalion chief with the Muncie Fire Department, said there were flames and heavy smoke upon arriving at building at the corner of University and Tillotson on the southwest side of campus. The fire was reported at 4:47 p.m. and firefighters arrived within five minutes.

“The problem was trying to get to it with the smokestacks and the buildings in the way,” said Adams. “Our aerial would not reach all the way to the top, so we had to lob some water. We tried to send a group up to the top of the structure using the stairs, but the fire was advancing too far to do that.”

In order to fully reach the fire, the firefighters had to call in a new truck that had not been used in an emergency fire before.

“The new 100-foot aerial allowed us to put the fire out,” Adams said. “The other trucks are 75-foot and we couldn’t get to the top. The 100-foot aerial allowed us to get up above and shoot water down, which is the optimal way to do it.”

Other structures blocking access to fires is a problem he said fire departments often face. 

“We just have to do the best that we can,” he said. “Ball State was here to cut this power line down to give us a better shot, but we didn’t need that to be done.”

The line that was considered was connected only to a light on the corner of the roof on fire.

Jim Lowe, director of construction and engineering operations, said when the fire was discovered, he, a supervisor and one of the workers from a nearby building went inside the unoccupied building. 

“We went in just to start shutting the equipment down so that we didn’t damage the equipment in the process of throwing a breaker,” Lowe said. “This is valuable equipment, so we went through and slowly turned everything off so they could really deluge the top of the structure with water.”

The building is made up of machinery that only requires people to enter to do maintenance work, so no one was inside. 

The fire was discovered when men in a nearby building heard popping noises and went outside to investigate.

Adams said the cause of the fire should be found out within a few days.


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