At lunch on Sept. 10, Buntrock Commons was a place of busy commotion. Yellow caution tape, three fire trucks, crowds of curious onlookers, blaring alarms, and a thin stream of black smoke curling out the top of Buntrock could be seen.
The King’s Dining Room is a formal dining space on the third floor of Buntrock Commons that is used for special events and holidays. Although the room has been closed for two years because of COVID-19, the King’s Dining Room’s kitchens have remained open for Bon Appétite to use.
Chad L. Christiansen, the operations captain of public safety, and Kevin J. Larson, director of facilities, provided insight into the events at Buntrock during an interview.
Stoves in Buntrock kitchens turn on automatically at the beginning of the day and remain on, to increase the speed of food production. An employee, not realizing that the stoves in the King’s Dining Room kitchens were still on, set down a dish tray on top of one of the hot stoves. The tray began melting and went up in flames, black smoke and the scent of burning plastic filling the building. This was the cause of the fire that ceased activities in Buntrock. The same employee acted quickly, and grabbed a fire extinguisher, quickly putting out the fire.
Every stove in the kitchens has an easy release sprinkler system located directly above it for emergencies such as this one. Fire alarms alerted Public Safety, who immediately called the fire department. The firefighters arrived after the fire had been extinguished, but a handful stayed to clear the acrid smoke. Smoke exhausts directly out of the building, and ventilation systems in Buntrock are highly effective, so it was not long before they were able to open up the first two floors for students.
The fire in the King’s Dining Room alerted maintenance and Public Safety to the issue of the unused stoves upstairs which were still hot. These stoves are now turned off.