A small fire broke out inside the Whittemore Center Arena (Whitt) equipment room at approximately 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8 during the UNH men’s ice hockey home opener against Bentley University. The venue was evacuated as a result. Items were allegedly being stored on top of the dryer. The normal operation of the dryer caused the items to ignite, subsequently activating the sprinkler heads. There were no reports of injuries following the incident.
“The sprinkler head above the dryer, as soon as it reached the activating temperature of 155 degrees, it fused, caused water to come out and knock the fire down,” Durham Fire Department’s Deputy Chief John Powers said.
As the emergency alarm sounded over the video board system, fans and arena personnel headed to the nearest exits. The evacuation was “seamless,” as stated by Powers. Fans were held outside for only about 20 minutes before they were let back into the facility.
“Once we identified there was an active fire in the building, we called out to the fire alarm commander and fire alarm panel and requested that the building would be evacuated,” Powers said. “All the systems worked perfectly, the fire alarms tied into the sound systems and the scoreboard. A signal was displayed on the scoreboard asking everyone to evacuate, everyone got up and left the building effortlessly and without alarm.”
Once the fire was contained, the arena returned to normal operation and the game resumed. The fire was ceased and the entire process, from evacuation to re-entry, took a minimal amount of time away from the gameplay.
All events at the Whitt are being held as regularly scheduled.