Students and staff at Lindenwood University-Belleville were evacuated Tuesday morning when the Dixon Student Center filled with smoke due to a small fire in an industrial oven.
Belleville Fire Department Capt. Brant Maine said no one was hurt and there was no significant damage to the building.
“Basically, some food fell from a tray in a large, rotating baking oven,” Maine said. “It landed on a burner and created a whole lot of smoke. Fortunately, the fire was limited to the oven.”
The fire department was dispatched to the fire at just before 8 a.m. By the time firefighters arrived from their engine house a block away, students who were in the cafeteria for breakfast and staff preparing meals for the day had already been evacuated.
Maine said quick-thinking cooks sprayed a chemical fire extinguisher into the oven to knock down the flames, then firefighters made sure it was out with water.
The fire was kept from escaping the oven, but Maine said the oven would have to be thoroughly cleaned of the fire retardant that will put it out of service for a while.
Lindenwood University-Belleville Dean of Student Development Angela Wingo-Rust said the food that fell on the burner was a batch of cookies.
“The staff has been in there and cleaned the entire kitchen,” Wingo-Rust said. “We had the (St. Clair County) Health Department in there right away to inspect everything, and we were ready to go in time for lunch.”
The Dixon Student Center was ventilated and workers returned to their stations before 9 a.m.
Wingo-Rush said fire alarms aren’t unusual at the school. She said the most common reason for them are incidents of students’ hair-curling irons setting off the smoke alarms in their dorm.
But Wingo-Rush and firefighters agree that it’s better to be safe than sorry when there is a large group of people in one place.