73.9 F

Fire Marshal: Boiler Room Source of UNR Explosion, All Dorms to be Inspected


Image: Ty O’Neil.

State Fire Marshal Bart Chambers determined the explosion at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Argenta Hall started in the dormitory’s boiler room and said all campus dorms will be inspected starting today.

The incident occurred July 5 when a 3-inch gas line feeder was severed at the junction from the initial explosion that occurred about 12:43 p.m. There was active fire from the line, causing the sprinkler system and alarm to trigger. A second explosion took place at about 1 p.m.

Fire from the initial explosion was extinguished by the building’s suppression system. Natural gas then filled the basement area where the two boilers are located and traveled to the upper portions of Argenta Hall, according to Chambers. The main gas line was shut off from the exterior of the building.

It was the second explosion that caused significant damage to Argenta and Nye halls and eight people suffered minor injuries.

Residential Life staff set up a command center and began calling students to make sure they were accounted for. UNR also released public messages about the incident and requested calls or emails from residents. Housing staff and student employees opened Peavine Hall for displaced students. 

Although deemed structurally sound, neither dorms will be occupied this fall and UNR is examining alternative housing for approximately 1,300 students.

“The university welcomes students to campus for the fall semester in just over 40 days,” a UNR statement said. “They will have a good facility to live in and a great staff who will make sure they have an amazing experience as new students at the university. That doesn’t change, whatever building they are in and wherever they are.”

Chambers said Tuesday that he suspects this was an isolated incident. However, he directed his staff to address fire-life safety inspections of all UNR dorms with help of the Division of Industrial Relations starting July 11.

“Chambers said he is committed to ensuring that the fire and life safety of those who are residing in these dorms and will partner with the university to also provide additional fire and life safety information to incoming and current students,” a statement from UNR said.

According to Chambers, the campus doesn’t have any active boiler or pressure-vessel issues with outstanding violations. The two boilers in Argenta Hall were last inspected Jan. 10, 2018, by a state-certified, third-party boiler inspection company. Both are water-tube boilers and require inspection and permitting every 24 months, meaning the permits were scheduled to expire Jan. 10, 2020.

Students who have concerns or need information about housing, food, and parking on campus are asked to call 775-784-1113 or 775-682-8241 or email [email protected]

Photo Gallery by Ty O’Neil

Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.