Engineering lab catches fire

A fire in the Engineering building last week caused a stir in the midst of an otherwise quiet spring break at UM.

The fire was detected at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Monday, March 14. An empty laboratory room on the first floor of the building caught on fire and was unattended for 45 minutes before it was discovered. During that time, the flames engulfed the entire lab room and extended to the neighboring classroom.

Once it was brought to the attention of those working inside the building, the police department was notified and the evacuation process began.

The professors, staff and students present at the time exited the lab and waited while the Coral Gables Fire Department extinguished the fire and assessed the damage. There were no reported injuries during the incident.

The 21-member crew of firefighters put out the flames in a matter of fifteen minutes.

“The cause of the fire is still unknown, but it does not appear to be intentional,” Coral Gables Fire Division chief Charles Davis said.

Dr. M. Lewis Temares, dean of the School of Engineering, confirmed that the fire was an accident.

“We take many precautions to ensure the safety of everyone in the building,” Dr. Temares said. “Many years have gone by without problems of this extent and all we can do is remind everyone to be as careful as possible in their laboratory experiments.”

The immediate destruction involved the two rooms directly hit, in addition to extensive smoke damage throughout the entire building. Further investigation of the edifice revealed that the fire caused serious damage to the electrical system.

“The electrical wiring for the entire building has to be redone after being burned,” Temares said. “We are expecting the delay to keep it closed for at least three weeks.”

For the time being, the offices and classes have been relocated to other areas of the campus, primarily the Physics building.

Insurance will cover the majority of the costs to repair the electrical system and physical damages done to the lower floors. However, the University will incur the fees of the deductibles.

“Everyone has been so supportive and helpful during this period of relocation while the building is under construction,” Temares said. “We are experiencing minimal discomfort thanks to the understanding attitudes and those willing to accommodate our situation.”

Stacey Arnold can be contacted at