Saturday, July 25, 2009

Damage estimate swells for U of M fire

Damage caused by a March fire at the University of Manitoba is worse than what investigators initially thought and will cause fall classes to be moved elsewhere on campus.

The cost to repair the five-storey Duff Roblin Building, originally pegged at $1.2 million, then $2 million, is now estimated to be between $40 million and $50 million.

The fire, on the fourth floor of the structure, was reported just after noon on March 28. It forced the evacuation of not only the Duff Roblin Building but other parts of the campus as well, as firefighters and hazardous-materials personnel were concerned about toxic fumes from 250 chemicals stored in the edifice.

Smoke in the upper levels and water in the lower levels has left the building unusable for at least the next six months, and some parts could take up to two years to recover, said Debbie McCallum, vice-president of administration at the U of M.

"The fire really was much more serious than we originally estimated it to be. The cost is significant and the damage has been significant," she said, adding that most of the damage to the lower floors came from the more than one million gallons of water used to put out the blaze.

Classes and some offices have been relocated to other buildings. But some faculty and graduate students will have to work out of a number of modular trailers being set up in a parking lot.

The cause of the fire was an electrical short from a faulty refrigerator cord.

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