Ether sparks fire in Chem building

By Zach Thomas
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 30, 1996

Gregory Harris
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Tucson firefighters exit the Marvel Chemistry Laboratories Building, 1213 E. South Campus Drive, after responding yesterday afternoon to a solvent fire on the third floor. The building was evacuated for nearly an hour.


The Marvel Chemistry Laboratories building was evacuated yesterday afternoon after ether ignited in a third-floor laboratory during a routine purification process.

Fire alarms sounded in the building at 1:11 p.m. University police, paramedics and the Tucson Fire Department cordoned off the building, as well as adjacent East South Campus Drive. Students, staff and researchers were forced to stay out until the situation was cleared at 1:55 p.m.

The small solvent fire, which occurred as a laboratory worker was distilling ether in Room 348, burned for two minutes until workers "easily extinguished" it, said Nadine Gruhn, a staff scientist in the lab.

The fire occurred within a specially designed cabinet and caused minimal damage, said Debbie Boberg, with the Department of Chemistry's Chemistry Student Services.

People who work in these labs are trained in fire safety, Gruhn said.

Ether, which is commonly distilled for laboratory purposes, is a very volatile chemical, said Steve Holland, director of the Department of Risk Management and Safety.

The Marvel building, 1213 E. South Campus Drive, has no classrooms and is primarily used as a research facility, Holland said.

John Enemark, a chemistry professor who directs the laboratory, was unavailable for comment.