By Colter Hettich, Features Editor
Students with afternoon classes on the third floor of the Hardin Administration Building encountered caution tape Friday after firefighters responded to a 911 call made by an employee of the Student Success offices who witnessed smoke coming from an air vent.
“They had been smelling a smoky odor for a few minutes prior to seeing the smoke,” said Jimmy Ellison, ACU chief of police. Two engines from the Abilene Fire Department’s Station 5 responded immediately along with two ACUPD units. Ellison said the engines arrived within minutes of the phone call.
The smoke had ceased by the time engines arrived, but Ellison said the “distinct, burning odor” was still prevalent.
“As a safety precaution, we wanted to clear the floor, so firefighters could move about freely and not be disrupting classes,” Ellison said. “It seemed obvious there was some sort of electric motor that was burning and causing the smoke.”
Ellison assured students, faculty and staff alike about ACUPD and AFD assessing the situation and deemed it appropriate to evacuate only the Administration Building’s top floor.
“It wasn’t like smoke was billowing out into the hallways,” Ellison said. “Otherwise, we would have evacuated the entire building.”
AFD followed emergency response protocol with a Ladder 5, a battalion chief and three engines: Engine 5, Engine 4 and Engine 3. Firefighters searched meticulously for the smoke’s source manually and using thermalimaging technology.
Gary Forehand, Engine 5 lieutenant, and his crew use the “point and shoot” imaging equipment to determine precise temperatures.
“It tells us a lot about that anything that is operating at a temperature higher than normal,” Forehand said. “We use it to exclude just as much as we use it to identify.”
Firefighters and ACU Physical Resources’ HVAC specialist finally discovered an air intake motor had burned out. Ellison said Physical Resources began repairs to the motor Monday.
“It was just a mechanical malfunction that caused it to burn up,” Ellison said. “No damage was done to the building or anything else other than the motor.”
Ellison said ultimately the event resulted in nothing more than “a few anxious moments that added a little excitement to a Friday afternoon.”