Fire causes estimated $10,000 damage to UI laboratory in Rantoul

RANTOUL — Rantoul Fire Chief Ken Waters says a fire early Friday evening caused an estimated $10,000 damage to the University of Illinois Advanced Transportation and Research Engineering Laboratory.

No injuries were reported.

Waters said the damage was largely limited to a single room at the facility, located at 1611 Titan Drive on the former Chanute Air Force Base. He said the rest of the lab could return to regular operations later this weekend.

According to a fire department report, people were mixing solvents and other chemicals in an aluminum container and heating it with an electric burner when the mixture ignited at about 6:15 p.m..

When Rantoul firefighters arrived at the scene, Waters said the facility's sprinkler system was already putting out the fire, but there was a lot of black smoke.

Waters said approximately four people at the laboratory were evacuated from the facility.

Firefighters shut off some valves, opened up a drain, put salvage covers on some equipment and had the fire under control by 6:25 p.m.

Firefighters left the scene by 7:07 p.m.

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Orbiter wrote on June 09, 2012 at 12:06 pm

"According to a fire department report, people were mixing solvents and other chemicals in an aluminum container and heating it with an electric burner"

Excuse me, but this process is an accurate description of what we otherwise call " brewing coffee".  Water is a solvent, you know. Caffeine is a chemical, you know.  True that coffee isn't normally flammable. But soybean oil is, and it's a solvent too, and table salt is the chemical known as sodium chloride. Maybe they were frying up some potatoes when the fry pan caught fire.

It's a real shame that the official Fire Department report is so vague, and it's even more disappointing that the N-G staff writer Tim Mitchell apparently didn't bother to ask questions, investigate, or provide an explanation.  But as written, the quoted material above adds nothing to the story and should have just been omitted, rather than contribute to scare-mongering about unspecified solvents and chemicals.