Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

December 9, 2023

Smoke found in Old Main

Student Rachael Heah walks past Marcus Masters, first shift Public Safety officer, and Chris Scott from the Instruction Department, who are keeping students from entering Old Main Jan. 21, 2018.

At about 9:45 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 21, there were reports of smoke coming out of Augustana’s oldest building: Old Main. Students were told to evacuate and leave all of their belongings in the building.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Watkins said she was leaving class when the fire alarm went off, so she was ready to evacuate, but other students that were about to enter had to stay outside until they received further directions.
Junior Sara Clark said she walked out of her 8:30 class and saw smoke coming out by the women’s bathroom in the basement. By the time she walked up the stairs to the next floor, the fire alarm went off.
She didn’t smell anything but said the fog looked like steam and “you could see through it, but you could definitely tell there was something there.”
“It happened really suddenly then we were just told that it may take a while,” she said.
Mark Beckwith, Deputy Chief of Augustana’s Police Department said that it wasn’t a fire, but that “coolant leaked and caused a non-toxic smoke” due to a contractor working on the HVAC system for heating and cooling of the building. 
At 11 a.m., Augie Alerts sent out a campus-wide alert informing Augustana to avoid Old Main and 7th Avenue while preliminary air tests were being conducted.

Firefighters test air samples

Ashleigh Johnston, Director of Public Relations and Social Media, said that the contractor was “conducting routine maintenance. The liquid was identified by the vendor and confirmed by the fire department to be non-toxic.
Meters are used to test the air quality. Preliminary tests have come back normal but out of an abundance of caution we will conduct further tests before opening the building.”
Old Main was reopened from 2:15-2:45 so that students, faculty, staff and students could retrieve the belongings left in the building. Old Main will remain closed today but classes will resume tomorrow as scheduled.

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Smoke found in Old Main