Firefighters respond to smoldering coal at university

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Spontaneous combustion apparently started a fire in four tons of coal stored in a bin at Southeast Missouri State University Monday.

University employees noticed smoke coming from an open window on the west side of the third floor of the university's power plant around 3:40 p.m., said Jim Daume, associate director of facilities.

The Cape Girardeau Fire Department responded with four engines and a ladder truck. The Cape County Private Ambulance Service also responded.

Firefighters quickly put out the smoldering coal. The coal was stored in a continuous bin divided into 12 sections, said battalion chief Steve Niswonger. The coal that was smoldering in the bin along with the coal in the bins on either side, was emptied into a dump truck. The truck then dumped the coal to cool on the concrete on the west side of the power plant. Firefighters used a front-end loader and hoses to cool down the coal. Niswonger said it was a smoldering fire and there were no flames.

Throughout the incident, the university's power plant continued to function. Daume said the coal in the bin was used to operate Boiler 3 at the power plant. At the time of the fire Boiler 4 was in use.

Daume said that in the future power plant employees will empty the interior coal bins when they are not being used. They will be filled only when needed.

No one from the university or the fire department was injured.

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