Iowa City, IA – Laboratory fire at University of Iowa contained by sprinkler system

A fire Sunday damaged a laboratory in the most heavily used research facility on the University of Iowa campus. Iowa City firefighters responded to a fire alarm at Bowen Science Building, 51 Newton Road, around 5:45 p.m. Sunday and found flames on the second floor, according to an Iowa City news release. Firefighters extinguished the fire in about 20 minutes.

Bowen’s sprinkler system contained the flames to the room where the fire started, but early estimates indicate damage to one-third of the first floor and one-third of the second floor of the 45-year-old building. An initial damage estimate indicates at least $500,000 in damage to the lab. This estimate does not include water damage.

“That water will just keep leaking down for a while,” said Iowa City Battalion Chief Eric Nurnberg.. “And as that water continues to migrate through the building, I’m sure they are going to have some other issues to deal with.”

“The research conducted in this area is predominantly medical, and non-hazardous in nature,” Hayley Bruce, a UI spokeswoman, said via email. “Some of the research has been temporarily interrupted, but at this time no data has been lost. No classes are expected to be impacted.”

University officials recently updated the Iowa Board of Regents about long-term plans for a $30 million renovation of the building. An $18.5 million project to modernize Bowen’s building systems is continuing through the 2017-18 academic year.

“Bowen Science is a building built in (1972) and funds are needed to completely modernize this building,” Rod Lehnertz said last week during a meeting of the regents’ Property and Facilities Committee. “It still remains — approaching 50 years of age — the most intensely utilized research facility on our campus. It is critical that the building be modernized and taken care of for the next generation.”

Nurnberg described the fire as “a great example of the importance of having a sprinkler system in the building.”

“Had there been no sprinkler system here, the damage would have crept into the millions easily,” he said.

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