Crews respond to fire at UMass Amherst lab building

A fire broke out in a research lab on the campus of UMass Amherst just before noon on Friday.
Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 4:58 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2023 at 6:12 PM EDT
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AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - A fire broke out in a research lab on the campus of UMass Amherst just before noon on Friday.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but university officials told us it could have started because of an experiment gone wrong.

“I’ve never seen something like this at UMass, like I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of like a fire in my time here,” said UMass graduate student Maeve Smith.

That was the reaction from Smith after a fire that started on the fourth floor of the Life Science Laboratories building caused staff and students to rush outside.

“We’ve had like four either drills or false alarms, so I assumed this was going to be a quick, you know, 10 minutes. Maybe someone burned their lunch and then back in, but, you know, it’s been a couple of hours now,” Smith added.

Western Mass News cameras captured a large presence of Amherst firefighters when we got to the scene.

“Our initial response, we had all eight on-duty personnel, but because of the size of the building and the partial complexity of the incident, we sent out a recall, which is all off-duty personnel would respond back to town and what that does is give us more resources here,” said Amherst Fire Chief Tim Nelson.

Nelson told Western Mass News that the fire started as two students were working on an experiment. He told us the sprinkler system put out the flames, which lead to other concerns: making sure there was no electrical damage that could start additional fires.

“We had a lot of water here, so one of the things we need to do is making sure the water is not affecting any of the other floor’s electrical or alarm systems,” Nelson explained.

Damage assessments are already underway in partnership with university officials.

“There’s certainly water damage in the building and what we need to do is clean that up and then do an assessment about the cause of the fire and we’ll be working closely with the Amherst Fire Department,” said UMass Amherst spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski.

There were no injuries reported.

Blaguszewski also told us that later tonight, university officials will be deciding if the building will remain partially closed or not starting Monday.