Smoke prompts evacuation of student center at Tabor College

Students, faculty and staff were safely evacuated from the Student Center at Tabor College, Hillsboro, around 9 a.m. Monday after smoke was discovered in the campus bookstore. Hillsboro firefighters located the source of the smoke in an overheated fan motor in the building's heating system.

"There were no students in any danger at any time," said Kirby Fadenrecht, vice president for business and finance.

In addition to the bookstore, the cafeteria, gymnasium, and athletic offices are located in the Student Center. According to Hillsboro Fire Chief Ben Steketee, everyone had been safely evacuated from the building by Tabor staff and Hillsboro police before the first firefighters arrived.

"We went in with a thermal imaging camera and did an interior search but didn't really find anything," Steketee said. "The interior team called for more firefighters to help search, and they've got it locked down to a fan motor that's overheated."

Tabor maintenance personnel assisted firefighters in locating the source of the smoke. Fadenrecht added, "Apparently, the motor burned out. The thermal camera located a 250-degree hot spot in the fan unit, and when the unit was opened, the fire department determined it was the motor.

"The motor was old and it runs during heating season 24 hours a day, so no surprise given the age of the building. There probably was never any significant danger to the building, but we're thankful the situation occurred this morning rather than during the weekend."

After smoke was cleared from the building and the power was turned back on, students, faculty, and staff were able to eat lunch in the cafeteria.

Fadenrecht added that the smoke had seeped into clothing on sale at the bookstore.

"Watch for the "Fire Sale" coming soon of bookstore clothing . . . no joke, unfortunately," he said.