Grease fire in Union caused evacuation

Jacob Boyko, News Editor (He/Him)

The University Student Union was evacuated Jan. 10 after a retardant used on a grill fire caused a power failure building-wide. 

Thanks to fast action by Sodexo workers, a grease fire that erupted in The Market’s prep kitchen at about 7:30 p.m. was halted before it could spread, according to Doug Wermedal, associate vice president of Student Affairs. 

“When an extinguisher is used in a confined space, you can’t always control where the fire retardant agent, which is a powdered substance, ends up,” Wermedal said. “Some of the retardant ended up in some (electrical) outlets, and when the outlets got that material in them in that concentration … it tripped some circuit breakers, and it cascaded throughout the Union.”

The area was cleaned up and back online that night with operations resuming the next morning, Wermedal said. 

“It’s a nice confirmation that the training of the staff worked and the fire was put out without even having to activate the hood,” Wermedal said. 

The hood system, or fire suppression system, would put out a larger fire but could also activate more extreme fire suppression measures across the building, including the sprinkler system. 

No equipment was damaged or destroyed, Wermedal said, with the biggest cost of the fire likely being the refilling of the fire extinguisher in the kitchen. 

Following the incident, the University Student Union closed for the remainder of the night. Emergency lighting and the fire alarm remained on through the loss of power.