Hazmat team investigates refrigerator explosion


The powerful boom heard early Wednesday morning around the Research and Innovation building was likely caused by a refrigerator door that blew off and cracked a laboratory window, according to the Tampa Fire Department, which responded to the scene and stayed for more than three hours. 

Tampa Fire Department Public Information Officer Jason Penny said automatic fire alarms alerted fire crews and University Police (UP) around 2:45 a.m.

“One officer said they saw a red glow in the room,” he said. “Another person said they smelled a faint odor of chemicals.” 

After learning the laboratory and refrigerator could contain chemicals, a Hazmat team arrived to search and evacuate anyone inside the building. 

Kevin Sill, the chief science officer of the laboratory, assured emergency crews that the refrigerator contained no hazardous chemicals.

Christopher Stone, the fire investigator on the scene, said the blast was contained and affected no other labs.

“The glass was doubled-paned,” he said. “And it did everything that it was supposed to do.”

 Emergency crews opened the windows to dock a ventilation truck and circulate the laboratory’s air.

UP Capt. Mike Klingebiel said all the teams could do now is wait. 

“We’re waiting for the state and city fire marshals, along with the clean-up crew, to release reports,” he said. “As soon as we get the word from them, we’ll reopen the building and everything will be back to normal.” 

Penny said the insurance company and the university could start separate investigations once the official investigation is complete.