A construction-related fire broke out late Wednesday morning, Feb. 6 in the Indoor Sports Complex. There have not been any reported injuries according to Assistant Chief of Police, Lawrence Zacarese.
Zacarese, who is also the director of emergency management for the university, said the fire was caused by construction material located under what would have become the new bleachers for the arena. The arena is the part of the complex that the university is in the process of renovating.
At the time of the fire, “just the construction workers that are working on the project” were present in the building, according to Zacarese.
Black smoke was clearly visible from the surrounding buildings, with the strong wind only adding to the billows blowing down Toll Drive.
Zacarese could not comment about how the fire will impact the arena’s construction schedule, and stated “the damage in the full scope is still being assessed,” but it is too soon to tell.
According to Zacarese, 50 to 70 first responders from the districts of Setauket, St.James, Stony Brook and Centereach arrived on scene with at least one fire engine and ambulance each to put out the blaze, which Zacarese described as “a small fire.”
“[Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps] responded to an alarm for reported smoke,” said Daniel Wolbrom, chief of SBVAC. “SBVAC nor the additional ambulances on scene treated or transported any patients.”
The fire and remaining smoke was handled within a few hours. “ [SBVAC] remained on standby and on scene until all operations were completed at 2:05 p.m.,” added Wolbrom.
The sports complex includes the Pritchard Gymnasium and training facilities for student athletes. At the time of the fire, athletes were training on the opposite side of the complex from the fire. Allyson LaPorte, a freshman on the Track and Field team, was training with her team in the weight room located in the basement of Pritchard Gym.
“One of the girls from the team, who had just been outside, came in and told us the fire alarm was going off and we couldn’t hear it, so we actually continued lifting for a bit,” LaPorte said. It was only after a few more people came in to tell them to evacuate that they actually did so. LaPorte described seeing a large plume of black smoke coming out of the arena and said it continued for a while.
The athletes were not allowed into the complex to get their bags until approximately 3 p.m. LaPorte was only able to collect her belongings after receiving a text from her coach saying that athletes were allowed in for just a few minutes.
“You could tell there was a fire just because you could smell the smoke.” LaPorte said, as she recalled the few minutes she had to pick up her belongings. She noted the lockers are located far from the arena, so only the smell lingered.
Students were notified about the incident through both email and text message from Emergency Management and were encouraged to stay away from the area. All the parts of the Sports Complex are currently closed.
Click here to watch video coverage of the incident and Zacarese’s response.