Fire At Heating Plant On OU Campus Causes $300K In Damage

By
Atish Baidya

Dateline
Updated Tue, Oct 29, 2013 3:40 pm

UPDATE 3:40 p.m. Ohio University maintenance crews are working to determine the exact cause of a fire at the school’s heating plant that caused at least $300,000 worth of damage and knocked out power to parts of the Athens campus.

“The fire caused the electrical fault on the line,” Mike Gebeke, executive director of Facilities Management said. “It took down the system that was supplying the rest of campus.  Once we could isolate the damage in the heating plant, we could re-energize the system.” 

According to the university preliminary results of its investigation show a main chilled water valve failed to reopen.  The failed valve caused a pump to overheat which resulted in a small explosion and fire. The valve was closed during work performed by contractors earlier on Monday. 

The university says the fire broke out around 8:30 p.m. Firefighters with the Athens Fire Department and Richland Volunteer Fire Department were able to put out fire by 11:30 p.m.

The loss of power also resulted in a decrease in steam and hot water production.  A generator was brought in to supply power to Lausche until crews could bring back the system to normal power.

“The electrical system is filled with relays that sense faults in the system,” Gebeke said.  “If it senses a fault, it will not let us energize the system.  This is a major safety feature of the electrical distribution system.  Until we could open the breaker between the fire and the main system, the relay sensed a fault and would not let us re-energize the system feeding the rest of campus."  

Gebeke continued, "Once we could get that breaker opened, we could then turn the power back on to campus.  After the area cooled down this morning, we could take out the damaged wire and bring Lausche and the entire campus back up on normal power.”

The chilled water portion of the plant is shut down for the winter.  It won’t be restarted until new equipment is installed, tested and controlled properly.


Ohio University maintenance crews are working to determine the exact cause of a fire at the school’s heating plant that caused at least $300,000 worth of damage.

According to the university preliminary results of its investigation show a main chilled water valve failed to reopen.  The failed valve caused a pump to overheat which resulted in a small explosion and fire. The valve was closed during work performed by contractors earlier on Monday. 

The chilled water portion of the plant is shut down for the winter.  It won’t be restarted until new equipment is installed, tested and controlled properly.

The university says the fire broke out around 8:30 p.m. Firefighters with the Athens Fire Department and Richland Volunteer Fire Department were able to put out fire by 11:30 p.m.

The campus has also been experiencing intermittent power outages since Sunday because of AEP maintenance of power lines servicing the Athens area.  The heating plant also experienced an electrical system fault Monday night.

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