Fire destroys office suite at TTU; damage estimates being evaluated

A fire destroyed a suite of offices in Prescott Hall, an academic building, at Tennessee Technological University late last night, causing all classes in the building to be cancelled for the day.

The damage resulted from the second of two fires reported in four-story Prescott Hall last night. The first fire, which broke out around 7:50 p.m., was an electrical fire caused by a motorized fan in the ductwork above the ceiling on the fourth floor where the Center of Excellence for Electric Power is located.

University police and the Cookeville Fire Department responded to a call about smoke in the building, and the fire department put the fire out with extinguishers shortly after. The first fire resulted in minimal damage, and most of the building was re-opened later in the evening.

A campus security guard posted in the building after the first fire discovered smoke on the fourth floor around 11:40 p.m. and reported the second fire. He was treated for smoke inhalation and released from Cookeville Regional Medical Center.

When fire officials arrived the second time, flames had engulfed the same office area. The four-office suite was gutted and destroyed. While the blaze was contained to that one area on the fourth floor, all four stories of the building on the west side have been damaged by water and smoke.

Authorities are still trying to determine the origin of the second blaze, and state arson investigators have been called in as a precaution. The building was evacuated during both fires, and it has remained closed since then.

Campus officials have given a low damage estimate of over $100,000, but hope to know more once the building is released and faculty and staff can enter their offices to estimate damage to equipment and furnishings. A restoration company is being used for clean-up, and professional consultants will help assess repair needs.

Most of the classes taught in the building are part of the university's civil, environmental, chemical, electrical and computer, and industrial and manufacturing engineering programs. The building also housed the Electric Power Center and the Center for the Management, Utilization and Protection of Water Resources.
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