Students evacuated after gas ignites in Stopher Hall

Bryan Wroten

Kent fireman Brock Murphy removes furniture from the first floor lobby of Stopher Hall. A fire activated the sprinklers, which caused flooding in the lobby. Firefighters removed the furniture in an attempt to save it from further damage. SEAN DAUGHERTY |

Credit: Steve Schirra

Maintenance on a fireplace in the first floor lounge of Stopher Hall started a small fire yesterday afternoon.

The building was evacuated, and no one was harmed.

While trying to put the screen across the front of the fireplace, the workers shifted a mechanism that opened the natural gas line, Capt. John Tosko of the Kent Fire Department said.

Tosko said the free flow of natural gas ignited as it passed through the fireplace’s pilot light, causing a “blow torch effect.”

The sprinkler system over the fireplace put out the fire and flooded the room. To be safe, however, the fire department also shut off the gas line.

Michael Bruder, assistant director of architecture and engineering, said the workers were from All Construction Service Inc., an independent construction company. He said they were installing remote controls and wiring the screens shut for safety when the fire broke out. The company also serviced the fireplaces in the Centennial halls for the upcoming winter months.

The leak occurred where the flexible gas line met with the hard gas line, Bruder said.

There was no smoke damage, Tosko said, but there was some water damage. Firefighters carried furniture from the lounge outside to dry.

Bruder said some water also leaked into the Honors College reception area, but they were able to catch it in time.

Though he didn’t have a dollar amount for damages, Bruder said the costs would be minor.

Contact public affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].