Person killed after electrical explosion at Cambridge building
Saturday, December 09 2006 @ 07:21 am EST
Contributed by: Don Winner
Editor's Comments: This is exactly the kind of situation the High Rise Escape System is designed to deal with. Maintenance workers are doing something in the basement of the building and there is an explosion and fire. Thick smoke fills the stairways. Smoke and fire detectors activate and people in the building try to get out, but they can't because the stairways are effectively blocked by the smoke. There were 100 people who were affected by the smoke, and 30 of them were taken to the hospital. When people start breaking windows in an office building for ventilation they are desperate for air. Rescuing people down fire ladders works but it's slow and dangerous. If there was just one of our systems in that building everyone could have been evacuated safely, quickly, and easily without having to exit through the smoke filled stairways.
Workers describe chaotic and harrowing scene CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- One worker at a Kendall Square office building describes today's fire and evacuation as one of the most frightening experiences of her life. Kristen Collins runs a public-relations firm on the fifth floor of the 17-story building. Collins says the staff was about to begin its holiday party when the fire alarm rang and an announcement was made over the intercom about an emergency in the building. Collins and others made their way to a stairwell, only to be confronted after about two floors with thick black smoke. In the chaos and panic that ensued, Collins retreated to the fourth floor. At that point, someone found a door that led to the parking garage, and Collins and the others made their way out. The fire was blamed on an electrical explosion in the basement. One person died and dozens of people were treated for smoke inhalation.
Video: A doctor from the medical center that is treating the victims talks about smoke inhalation.
MIT blast kills NStar worker, Dozens treated
By Mark Jewell THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
A woman waits for firefighters to evacuate her from a low-roofed building adjoining the 17-story office building owned by Massachusetts Institute of Technology after an explosion and fire in Cambridge yesterday. (AP PHOTO)
Suddenly, it was very, very scary, because it seemed there was going to be no way to get out.
David Clemens, SOFTWARE WORKER WITH ASCENT TECHNOLOGY INC.
CAMBRIDGE— An electrical explosion and fire in the basement of a 17-story office building killed a utility worker and sent dozens of people to hospitals yesterday after acrid smoke billowed into stairwells, temporarily blocking exit routes for hundreds of workers.
The explosion occurred at about 11 a.m. as two workers for the utility NStar conducted maintenance in a basement vault supplying the building’s electricity, Fire Chief Gerald Reardon said.
NStar worker Kevin Fidalgo died after being taken to Massachusetts General Hospital. The utility said Fidalgo, 28, had worked for NStar for six years.
The other NStar worker, Christopher Carey, was treated at Mass. General for smoke inhalation.
Authorities were investigating the cause of the explosion.
Most of the more than 30 people sent to hospitals tried to escape through stairwells but turned around after they were overcome by smoke, Reardon said. A total of about 100 people — including those hospitalized — were either treated at the scene for smoke inhalation or evaluated by medical workers.
None of hospitalized office workers was believed to be seriously hurt.
At the time of the explosion, about 800 people were inside the building near Kendall Square, a hub for high-technology and pharmaceutical companies neighboring the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus. MIT owns the building.
David Clemens, a software worker with Ascent Technology Inc., said he was among dozens of workers from his upper floor who tried to leave down stairwells, only to be forced back by the thick smoke. Clemens said as he and others waited for help in an elevator lobby, interior lights flickered.
“Suddenly, it was very, very scary, because it seemed there was going to be no way to get out,” Clemens said.
After smoke cleared from the stairwells, firefighters escorted workers out the building.
Reardon said fire investigators would try to determine why smoke seeped into the building’s stairwells, which are designed to be sealed to prevent smoke from entering.
During the fire, the Longfellow Bridge, which crosses the nearby Charles River, was temporarily closed to traffic and the Kendall Square subway station was briefly closed.