(NPC Photo – Air ducts in the building show minimal damage after the October 14 fire.)

Fire at NPC Welding/Cosmo facility in St. Johns mitigated by fast acting emergency personnel, students and staff

On Wednesday, October 14, St. Johns Fire Department firefighters responded to a fire at Northland Pioneer College’s (NPC’s) Welding/Cosmo facility in St. Johns.

At approximately 2:04 p.m. students and staff in the welding building began to smell smoke. Cosmetology classes (typically housed in the same building) were not in session at the time.

“Before I could say anything all 19 students were at their muster site and were counting to make sure all students were out, and were making sure they all had their buddy,” states NPC Welding Instructor, Frank Pinnell. “In an approximate 30 seconds of time the entire shop had filled with thick white smoke.” At 2:06 p.m. a 911 call was placed and emergency services were dispatched. Students were sent home or back to their high school.

St. Johns Emergency Services shared via their social media Facebook page that upon arriving “the first due engine company encountered heavy smoke, high heat and hidden fire. The crews found fire within a dust collector used in the welding booths, transport piping and some small amounts of smoldering debris,”. The “fire was rapidly extinguished, and due to the nature of large commercial complex fires, mutual aid was received from Concho, Springerville and Eagar Fire Departments,” the post continues. “Damage to the building was minimized, and efforts to remove smoke from the building limited smoke damage from extending further.” It was “a tremendous effort by the students and Mr. Pinnell. We commend Mr. Pinnell and the students for their prompt, efficient and expeditious evacuation.”

According to NPC Chief Information Officer of Technology Advancement and Support Scott Estes, “damage to the building is actually relatively small. There is no water damage to speak of. There was some drywall and roofing damage as the fire service conducted a search for additional hot spots.” There was no damage to the network or computer equipment. The cause of the fire is yet to be determined.

Classes normally held in the building were moved to a virtual format on Thursday and Friday October 15 and 16. In person classes in the building are expected to resume by October 26. “We want to thank St. Johns Emergency Services as well as Navopache Electric, the City of St. Johns, St. Johns Police Departments, the Apache County Sheriff’s Office and Apache County Emergency Management for their efforts during this incident,” Estes concludes. “We are fortunate to have excellent emergency services in the area and extremely fast-acting, smart students and faculty.”