Baylor Sciences Building On Schedule, Despite Fire

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    Firefighters and restorations crews search for hot spots on the roof of the Baylor Sciences Building's E Wing.
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    Waco fire investigators inspect the fire-damaged roof area between the D and E Wings.
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Oct. 31, 2003

by Lori Scott Fogleman

A portion of the under-construction Baylor Sciences Building was damaged by an early morning fire today (Friday, Oct. 31), but an early assessment by university and Beck Construction officials showed the damage to be less substantial than first thought.

President Robert B. Sloan Jr., who toured the area this morning, said it appears that the building's schedule will not be affected by the fire. The $103-million, 500,000-square-foot building is expected to be open for classes in fall 2004, with faculty moving into the new space during the summer.

Sloan described Beck officials as "greatly relieved" after the preliminary assessment.

"They will continue to assess the structural integrity of the building's various elements, but so far, it appears the damage was not nearly what they originally feared," Sloan said.

No one was injured in the fire.

Ten Waco fire units were called to the scene about 4:22 a.m. Firefighters were able to contain the fire in the hub area between the D Wing (nearest Waco Creek) and the E Wing (middle wing). The fire, which investigators said might have been started by a temporary electrical source, was isolated to the fifth floor, which is unoccupied space. A firewall in the roof of the fourth floor kept the fire from spreading to the lower floors of the building.

The Baylor Sciences Building is the largest construction project in the university's history. The new building will consolidate the five major science departments currently located in Sid Richardson and Marrs McLean science buildings, which were built 30 years ago when Baylor was half its present size.

The D Wing contains research and teaching lab space for biology and neuroscience. The E Wing includes space for interdisciplinary programs, such as pre-health programs and research centers on molecular biosciences, drug discovery and aquatic research. The F Wing, which was not affected by the fire, will house chemistry, physics and geology.

At this time, firefighters are using thermal sensors to find any remaining hot spots, and about 100 restoration workers are already inside the building beginning cleanup work. Construction work continues this morning on parts of the building unaffected by the fire.

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