Minor fire disrupts classes at OCC in Southfield

By: Jennie Miller | Southfield Sun | Published November 23, 2011


SOUTHFIELD — Students were evacuated from the Southfield campus of Oakland Community College at 9:30 Nov. 17 after a small fire broke out on the roof of the new wing, but classes resumed shortly thereafter once firefighters deemed it safe.

While the incident is still under investigation, initial reports indicated the source of the fire.

“It turned out to be an energy recovery unit,” said Keith Rowley, acting chief of the Southfield Fire Department. “As air is pulled out of the building, this unit recovers some of the heat to save energy and reuse it. There’s a little motor that spins up there. We think the motor overheated and came in contact with the insulation.”

The fire was contained to the unit.

“It’s encompassed in this sheet metal; (we had to) cut the metal, pull it away, (and found) insulation burning.”

College personnel were quick to react, as Rowley said a contractor and engineers were already on the scene upon firefighters’ arrival.

“The school did an exceptional job of evacuating before we arrived,” Rowley said of the less than four minutes it took for firefighters to get to the college. “It’s right around the corner from station one, so they were quick.”

It didn’t take long at all for the situation to be under control.

“Within an hour, everything was copasetic, and they were able to reoccupy the building, and classes resumed,” said OCC spokesman George Cartsonis. “It’s minimal damage as far as we can tell — the unit and the roof a little bit. Some water had seeped down onto the third floor, so they had to cordon it off for a while to clean it up and avoid some slip and falls. … There was a little smoke smell that cleared up pretty quickly. We were back to business in a very short time.”

With 3,000 students enrolled overall in the community college, Cartsonis estimated that a couple hundred were on campus at the time of the incident.

The new nursing wing of the Southfield campus was opened last fall after a $25 million construction project.