Karly Krasnow / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Students were evacuated from Weill Hall after a small fire under a fume hood on Thursday

March 9, 2017

Small Fire Causes Evacuation of Weill Hall

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A fire under a fume hood in Weill Hall drew several fire trucks to Cornell on Thursday afternoon, but the only reported injury was to a mouse who was undergoing surgery at the time.

The fire on the fourth floor set off alarms around 12:45 p.m., according to an associate professor who was inside the building for class at the time. About 40 to 50 students were evacuated from the building.

“It was quite a small fire under a fume hood,” Todd Pfeiffer, Weill Hall facilities director, told The Sun. “It was contained within a few minutes … no damage to the facility.”

Prof. Chris Schaffer, biomedical engineering, said one mouse undergoing a surgical procedure at the time of the fire alarm was killed, which is standard procedure to avoid causing anesthetized animals unnecessary pain.

“If they’re anesthetized, they could wake up while the building is evacuated and be in a lot of pain,” said Schaffer, a principal investigator at the Schaffer-Nishimura Labs in Weill Hall. “Those procedures are what we do to minimize risk of unnecessary pain or discomfort.”

Another mouse that had already undergone a procedure was being imaged under a microscope during the fire, Schaffer said, but no one was performing surgery on the rodent.

That mouse was quickly placed into a tupperware to prevent it from being exposed to pathogens and a researcher evacuated the building with the mouse in hand, Schaffer said.

“That animal woke back up from the anesthesia, lived in the tupperware for 20 minutes and then was brought back into the lab,” he said.



Students have re-entered the building and all of the facilities are open except for the 4S lab wing, Pfeiffer said.

Tower Road between Garden Avenue and Wing Drive was closed for about an hour for fire department activity, but reopened around 2:20 p.m.

Karly Krasnow ’18 contributed reporting to this article.