Administration/Humanities Building reopens after electrical fire

After less than a two-week closure of the Administration/Humanities Building due to a fire, the building is now reopened as of Oct. 14.

The Administration/Humanities Building reopened on Oct. 14, allowing students and staff to return to their classrooms and offices. Photo by Jason Herr.

The Sept. 29 fire started due to electrical malfunctions in the building’s main distribution switchboard. The sprinkler system was triggered by the fire, but there was little water damage to the building and its equipment, according to Deputy Director of Facilities and Campus Services, Ryan Buchholdt.

The cause behind the switchboard malfunction is under investigation. Buchholdt speculated that the age of the equipment may have contributed to the cause of the fire.

“The fire was contained within the main distribution switchboard, resulting in a total power outage until repairs could be completed,” Buchholdt said.

The utility service is connected to the building by the switchboard, which is designed specifically for the Administration/Humanities Building. Replacement parts for the switchboard are not readily available, Buchholdt said, so new parts had to be engineered and others ordered. AMC Engineers and Vannoy Electric were able to expedite design and part sourcing to get the Administration Building operating again quickly.

Anchorage Fire Department personnel responds to the Sept. 29 fire that began in the building’s main distribution switchboard. Photo courtesy of Ryan Buchholdt.

The fire started on a Sunday afternoon, so there was little time to reschedule classes in the building, Buchholdt said. All classes the following Monday, Sept. 30, were canceled by University Leadership. They were relocated to various buildings around campus throughout the rest of the week.

“Fifty-six class sections and approximately 70 faculty and staff had to be temporarily relocated to other places on campus until the building could be reopened,” Buchholdt said.

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The relocation was organized by the Office of the Registrar. The Alaska Middle College classes also held in the building were relocated to the UAA/APU Consortium Library.

Lindsey Chadwell, the University Registrar, reached out to impacted students and faculty via email to let them know their courses had been relocated.

In addition to electronic communication to students, signs outside of the Administration/Humanities Bulding assist in guiding students to relocated classes while repairs were being completed. Photo by Jason Herr.

“We worked jointly on messaging with the Office of University Advancement, which sent out broad communications via email, social media and the UAA website alerting the campus community to the building’s closure,” Chadwell said.

In addition to the 56 classes, the offices of the Chancellor, Provost, Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services and some members of University Advancement are also located in the Administration/Humanities Building. These offices were relocated to the University Lake Building by Facilities and Campus Services. Smaller units were relocated to the UAA/APU Consortium Library and Professional Studies Building. Staff in the building were also given the opportunity to work from home via computer if they were able to do so.

All main electrical equipment that is similar in age to the switchboard will be inspected by Facilities and Campus Services. Regular inspections will also continue and we are also evaluating best practices for regular inspections to enhance safety, Buchholdt said. Buchholdt said.

“In addition to steps that can prevent this sort of incident in the future, our Incident Management Team, which includes representatives from University Police, Facilities and Campus Services, Dean of Students Office and University Advancement, will evaluate the overall response to find ways to improve our emergency practices,” Buchholdt said.

For more information on the Administration/Humanities Building fire and equipment inspections, contact Facilities and Campus Services through its page on the UAA website.

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