Saturday, April 18, 2015

What explosion and fire?

Around 5:30 yesterday morning, my alma mater, Monmouth College, suffered an accident which first required the help of the city fire department and then one of those professional cleaning crews. From what I was told later in the day, there was an explosion in the chemistry lab of the new business and science center, involving an organic compound in faulty storage.

My source tells me that the probable cause of the fire was several containers of ether having been stored in a somewhat-less-than-safe refrigerator. Said fridge, as its thermostat directed, would switch off and on, and each time it came back on, would create a small electrical spark in the motor...ultimately igniting vapors of the ether within. This caused an explosion which shook the entire building, causing "at least a half a million dollars in damages" to the newest academic building on campus.

We are all very lucky that this occurred when few students were awake and in the building.

We are not so lucky in this community when it comes to information. I learned details of the incident fully thirteen hours after it occurred, and then only because a member of the family spends his days on campus, and explained to us at dinner what all the fuss of the morning had been.

We have a daily local newspaper. Our neighboring city has a daily newspaper. Neither of them has seen fit to run anything about this on their web pages yesterday afternoon or this morning, about why the Monmouth fire department sped to the scene in the pre-dawn hour. And I guess none of the regional television news teams has anybody tipping them to real events in our sleepy little village, because I can't seem to find any mention of the accident anywhere -- even though one of them had a charming article about a cat stuck in a tree.

I am grateful to the powers that be for the news that there were no injuries in the explosion (I shudder to imagine, had it been later in the day, with the building full of people). I would also be grateful, though, if the news had come to me through something other than private channels. As a member of the community, I would like to believe we are better served than this.

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