The cause of a contained chemical explosion that led to a fire at Canadian University College in Lacombe more than two weeks ago has been determined. According to Lacombe fire chief Ed van Delden, the fire was traced back to the improper storage of flammable chemicals.
“Flammables were stored in a cooler that was not designed for this purpose. The cooler’s electrical circuits were not appropriate for a flammable environment,” he said.
Investigators believe one flammable container developed a leak, causing the entire cooler to become flammable. It was then “ignited by an electrical spark, which likely occurred when the refrigeration unit started or stopped,” van Delden said.
The explosion occurred in the chemical preparation and storage room on the top floor of the north wing of the Chan Shun Science Centre.
Three students studying in a classroom three doors down from the lab heard an explosion and reported seeing smoke and flames shortly after 11 p.m. on Oct. 8.
They pulled the fire alarm and called 911. Lacombe, Bentley and Blackfalds crews responded immediately and were able to put the fire out without issue. No injuries to students, staff or faculty were reported.
However, seven Lacombe firefighters were treated on scene for eye irritation and breathing discomfort and transported to Lacombe hospital as a precaution. All were released from the hospital without concerns.
The storage room and labs in the area have been badly damaged by the blaze, stated a release from the school. The labs on the floor below have also suffered water damage.
The extent of the damage has yet to be confirmed. Van Delden said he roughly estimates damages to be about $500,000. All classes that took place in the wing have resumed at temporary locations across campus.