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Small Fire in Birck Hall Leads to Water Damage


Zaakirah Mujid

Investigative Editor

Water damage occurred to the third floor of Birck Hall and the Jurica- Suchy Nature Museum located below on the second floor, after a small fire started in Birck Hall Lab 346.

The fire started late Saturday, April 14 inside the lab’s chemical hood, according to an email from Marlene Levine to campus. The sprinklers in Birck Hall Lab 346 were activated and the hood system contained the fire from spreading according to Levine. The Fire Department was immediately called to the scene and shut off the sprinklers. No one was hurt, but it was clear that there was damage to the immediate area and its surroundings stated Michi Dubes, Safety Specialist from University Police.

“We don’t know the cause of the fire, but there was significant damage from it,” said Dubes, “Water travels, and it went to surrounding offices and then it went straight down [into the museum].”

“The museum suffered extensive water damage resulting from the incident. We are very glad no one was injured”, said Karly Tumminello, Director of the Nature Museum, “We are working closely with the restoration crews, as well as the Conservation Center of Chicago to assess the damages at this time. Approximately 491 specimens were involved, and nine case displays were damaged. The museum will be closed for at least two weeks.”

The water from the sprinkler that was activated spread to surrounding areas of Birck Hall as well. The water also spread down to the second floor where the Museum is located.

“In addition to the Lab area, the following adjacent office spaces incurred water damage and are undergoing mitigation efforts by Midway Restoration Services: [Birck] 329, 330, 331, 332, 335, 336, 337, 340, 341, and 342,” continued Levine in the email to campus.

“Many faculty have been relocated to Scholl and Lownik,” said the Acting Dean of College of Sciences Robin Rylaarsdam.

“The Marsupial case with our only kangaroo, possum, saber toothed tiger, koala… that one is being tested. Another case with the raven and fox, the sugar melted off and ran down and ruined all the other animals as well,” said witness Michael Skora, who was called to help contain the water, “It got into the light system and cases. There was 2-3 inches of water in some spots.”

Caution tape, humidification and dryer equipment were put in Birck Hall after water spread through the second and third floor.
Photo Credit: Zaakirah Mujid.

In 2012, a flood occurred after an unidentified person activated a lab shower at a wash station on the third floor in Birck Hall, and the Candor reported there was close to $1 million in damage. The main part of the museum had water damage and several display cases were damaged. The ceiling tiles started falling in the museum due to pressure of the water on the tiles.

There is further maintenance needed to be done including the replacement of dry wall.

“We will continue to keep the occupants of Birck Hall informed of our efforts to re-open the lab and repair work environments,” said Marlene Levine in an email to campus. “There is no evidence of environmental contamination and the area is deemed safe.”

Jennifer Flores contributed to this article.