Fire in Chemistry-Physics Building

A chemical fire occurred in the Chemistry-Physics Building Tuesday afternoon.

The Lexington Fire Department initially responded to Chem-Phys after 5:30 p.m. for a private fire alarm, Battalion Chief Randy Gilliam said. While on the way to campus, Gilliam said they were alerted that chemicals may be involved.

With the possibility of chemicals, HazMat trucks also responded, firefighter Antoine Tribble said.

But when crews arrived, they found no fire, Gilliam said.

“After conferring with the students that were inside working in the lab, they said initially there was a small fire,” Gilliam said. “They were able to put it out.”

He said the students were working with sodium hydride and had a small fire. The students tried to put water on it, which caused the fire to flash, Gilliam said.

The students then got some isopropanol, the recommended extinguishing agent, to put out the fire, Gilliam said.

On a cupful of chemical was involved in the fire, and the students were able to get the flash fire put out. The sprinkler system did not go off, and no fire damage resulted, Gilliam said.

Students called the fire department after trying to use water to put out the fire, he said.

The fire did not pose a respiratory risk, Gilliam said. But the chemicals are caustic, so clean-up crews had to wear gloves and protective clothing.

The fire alarm was pulled, Gilliam said, and the building was completely evacuated. People were beginning to re-enter the building around 6:30 p.m.

Some students, like mining engineering graduate student Mohammad Rezaee, were drawn to all of the commotion at Chem-Phys.

“I saw that there was a lot of people and police,” Rezaee said.

Rezaee said he had class in the mining department and was going to meet one of his friends at Chem-Phys. He said his friend made it out of the building and was at home.

More than 15 firetrucks responded to the scene. Gilliam said the crews wanted to be prepared.

“It was probably a little more impressive from the street,” Gilliam said. “We would rather have the crews here ready to go, and I’m thankful it wasn’t more than what it was.”