Rider University, Hill Dorm,
2083 Lawrence Road, Lawrence Township
During the late evening of Sunday, October 30, 2005, Lawrence Road Fire Co. volunteers responded to a smoke condition in one of the dormitories on the Rider University campus.
It was 10:45 p.m. when Mercer County Central Communications Center dispatched all three Lawrence Township fire companies – Lawrence Road (Station 22), Slackwood (Station 21) and Lawrenceville (Station 23) – and an ambulance from Lawrence First Aid Squad to university campus at 2083 Lawrence Road for a report of smoke in the Hill Residence Hall.
Telesquirt 22 quickly responded, with Capt. Shaun Dlabik in command and Ff. Charles Commini driving. The crew included Ff. Ryan Dlabik, Ff. R.J. Laird and Ff. Jarred Pierson.
Engine 22 responded just seconds later, with Capt. Michael Ratcliffe in command and Ff. Ed Budzinski driving. The crew included Ff. Brian Laue, Ff. Steve Adzima and Ff. Chris Dlabik.
Telesquirt 22 arrived on scene by 10:51 p.m. Capt. Dlabik established command and met with Rider University security officers, who reported that there was a strong odor of smoke in the first floor hallway of the dormitory. The building had already been evacuated by secuirity.
Telesquirt 22’s crew entered the building to investigate and reported that they had a noticeable odor and a slight haze in the hallway. Engine 22 then arrived and its crew was assigned by command to help Telesquirt 22’s crew search the building.
Working with security, firefighters entered each room on the first floor but found no sign of a fire. Thermal imaging cameras were used to check the rooms and all light balasts and void spaces in the hallway.
As additional crews from Station 21 and Station 23 arrived, they were sent in to assist with the investigation. Crews were sent to check the second and third floors and the basement.
While those searches were underway, firefighters removed a section of drop-ceiling in the first floor hallway to check an area that showed to be hot with a thermal imager. Firefighters detected a stronger odor of smoke above the drop-ceiling and found that an uninsulated pipe was extremely hot to the touch.
Firefighters in the basement, meanwhile, discovered that a water circulator pump for the heating system had seized and damaged a thermal coupler, giving off the odor of burning that was in turn filtered up to the first floor through pipe chases. The extreme heat in the pipe above the first-floor drop-ceiling was believed to have been the result of the circulator pump failure.
The heating system was turned off and university maintenance officials advised to fix the problem. Students were allowed back into the dormitory and firefighters cleared the scene by 11:40 p.m.