Benedictine College dining hall sustains smoke and fire damage

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By MARY MEYERS Atchison Globe – Jun 14, 2023

The Atchison Fire Department investigator has ruled out any foul play as to why an industrial dishwashing machine became engulfed in flames Tuesday night at Benedictine College.

“The cause is yet to be determined, but it was most likely electrical in nature,” AFD Chief Patrick Weishaar said.

Weishaar reported the firefighters were dispatched to the Benedictine College Dining Hall for the report of a fire. Crews arrived to find heavy black smoke as it was emitting from the roof.

Preliminary findings from the FirePrograms report indicate the firefighters received the call a few minutes before 8:30 p.m. at 1020 N. Second St. concerning Arcing, shorted electrical equipment.

Weishaar said firefighters quickly managed to make entry into the smoke-filled building and rapidly found an industrial dishwasher machine engulfed in flames as the fire spread to adjacent equipment, Weishaar said. Although the building’s sprinkler system had been activated the fire had grown beyond the system’s capability the firefighters managed to quickly extinguish the fire with the use of the fire hose, they stretched along with them while they searched to locate the fire.

Weishaar described the dishwasher as a very large, commercial machine comparable in size to a truck or small van. The AFD investigator determined the dishwasher was in proper working condition and regularly serviced prior to the fire according to its maintenance records.

After firefighters had the fire under control, the crews were able to shut the sprinkler system down and minimize the damage.

Weishaar said the firefighter crews used their specialized power fans to clear the smoke from the building.

BC staff informed AFD that there have been many summer camp students that are currently staying on campus, Weishaar said.

Weishaar said for the time being, AFD has postponed the investigation while a cleaning company works to clear the smoke smell and soot from the rest of the building and the sprinkler company brings the sprinkler system back to working order.

Weishaar said the room where the fire was located is currently closed off while cleaning and repair work is ongoing in other areas nearby. After the impacted room re-opens then investigators will continue their work to complete the investigation and determine the extent of damage to equipment and the building.

There were no reported injuries among BC staff, visitors, or any of the first responders. During the night, AFD crews remained on the scene to assist with the cleanup that entailed clearing the smoke and gathering the equipment.

Atchison County EMS and Atchison Police Department also responded to the incident.

“I am extremely proud of our firefighters who quickly responded and were able to find and extinguish the fire very rapidly avoiding any fire extension to the building’s structure,” Weishaar said. “The BC Cafeteria is also connected to Guadalupe Hall dormitory, which is currently only sparsely occupied due to school not being in session, but the entire complex is a centerpiece of the campus and a vital part of the college.”