RENO, Nev. – Eight people were injured Friday in an explosion at a University of Nevada, Reno dormitory, authorities say.
According to Steve Leighton, operations chief for the Reno Fire Department, six people were treated at the scene. Two were transferred to the hospital, but have been released.
There was major damage to the building, Leighton said.
University officials are calling the explosion a utilities accident.
“There has been a utilities accident on the main campus Police and fire on scene please stay away,” UNR sent in a text message to faculty and students.
Leighton said a single-engine company initially responded to a fire alarm and a small explosion in the basement of UNR’s Argenta Hall at around 1 p.m.
“While we we were there investigating it, there was a larger explosion that damaged a large portion of the center of the building.” Leighton said. “We’re not sure how it happened; possibly some sort of mechanical failure inside the building.
“We have done a systematic search of the building; there is nobody in the building at this time. There is one area that we’re still concerned with, and that is the basement where we think the explosion occurred.”
He added that the basement is under 2 feet of water, which has delayed a complete search.
Multiple agencies have responded to the incident at Argenta Hall, including the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, the Reno and Sparks police departments, the Reno Fire Department and the Nevada Highway Patrol.
All classes have been canceled for the remainder of the day, according to a text alert from UNR
One student was in her dorm room at Argenta Hall when she heard the explosion.
“I heard a really large boom, and the fire alarm went off,” Therese-Mae Lim said Friday. “I went outside of my room and all the lights were off. There was a complete power outage except for the emergency lights.”
“I thought I smelled gas when I left the building,” she said.
Destiny Iwuajoku, an orientation guide at UNR, said she and her friends were at the Downunder Café when they heard that a boiler had given out and that they had to evacuate.
“So, we were evacuating the building and a couple of my friends and I were right across from Argenta and it exploded,” Iwuajoku said.
Iwuajoku said 28 other students at Nevada Living Learning Community also had to evacuate. She said she knew of several students, including football players and residential advisers, were staying at Argenta Hall.
Attempts at reaching the Reno Police Department, the Reno Fire Department, and the UNR police for more information were not immediately successful.
The residence hall opened in 2015 at a cost of $40.5 million. The seven-floor building houses up to 750 residents. The university’s web page refers to Argenta as a civic engagement-themed residence hall.