MALTA – Jered Marrs, an 18-year-old freshman at Kishwaukee College, was in math class about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday when the fire alarms in the college’s “B” wing began to ring.
“The fire alarms went off, and then we started walking back to the parking lot,” Marrs said, adding that he saw smoke as he was exiting the building. “And we got a school notification that all school was canceled till 10 a.m. until they figured out what was going on.”
A crowd of people gathered outside Kishwaukee College on Wednesday after it was evacuated as firefighters responded to a fire call at the school. DeKalb County Sheriff’s deputies turned away oncoming cars trying to enter campus for a short time while fire crews investigated. Motorists were allowed to leave campus, however, and traffic was backed up on Route 38 near the college as first responders did their work.
Malta Fire Chief Jim Mohns said the problem occurred when a motor on an air-conditioning unit in the attic of the building failed, causing smoke to flood into classrooms below. He said the air-conditioning unit did not catch fire and shut itself off.
“When the fire alarm goes out, that means you’ve got to get out,” Mohns said. “The safety system did what it was supposed to do.”
People evacuated the building, and firefighters went in to make sure there were no flames anywhere inside. Firefighters later ventilated the building.
Normal second-period classes resumed at 10 a.m., while the interrupted first-period classes that were affected by the evacuations began again at 11 a.m., said David Dammon, executive director of campus operations at the college.
Dammon did not anticipate any lasting property damage, but said six classrooms on the first and second floors of the wing were directly affected by smoke and needed to be cleaned Wednesday morning. He said the classes scheduled to be held there relocated to other rooms.
No injuries were reported.
Firefighters from several departments, including DeKalb, Sycamore, Malta, Rochelle, Shabbona and Genoa-Kingston, were on the scene, along with DeKalb County Sheriff’s deputies. The box alarm that called them there was struck out about 9:45 a.m. The parking lot was cleared by 10:15 a.m.