[cifnmedia] State to Issue Fire Warning

  • From: "Wilcox, Christopher M" <cmwilcox@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "CIFN LIST" <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 14 Nov 2003 05:21:47 -0600

State to Issue Fire Warning

Nov 13, 2003 8:52 pm US/Central
CHICAGO (CBS 2) In just a matter of hours, the state will send an alert
to every school in Illinois warning of a fire danger uncovered by CBS
2's political editor Mike Flannery.

Now, there is new evidence of just how dangerous this hidden fire hazard

CBS 2 News reported last week that certain heating and air conditioning
units have been causing fires at Chicago Public Schools, perhaps for as
long as four years. 

The fires ruined classrooms on the West Side and the South Side. Some
teachers and students suffered smoke inhalation, but victims only knew
of their own school's fire, and even now have no idea it was part of a

This Univent heating and air conditioning unit is a different model than
the troubled ones we've previously linked to a series of fires in
Chicago Public Schools. But it burst into flame all the same last March
at Bouchet Elementary. 

Teacher Regina Foreman recalls a sudden, loud explosion.

"Big black smoke was filling up the room, and we were like gagging and
coughing. We couldn't catch our breath," says Foreman.

Despite that, Foreman said her first-graders made an orderly exit from
room 211. 

One reason, they'd gone through an almost identical experience just
three days earlier, when the Univent heater/air conditioner right next
door in room 212 suddenly caught fire

"We heard five pops, two very loud, three and then smoke started
billowing. And then it filled the whole building," recalls teacher
Adrienne Shaw.

Because of damage done by the back-to-back fires, Bouchet's teachers
were forced to hold class for 80 students for weeks in a cramped
library, similar to other schools where Univents burned up. 

But until CBS 2 News reported the pattern last week, each believed its
fire to be an isolated incident.

"I thought it was just my school, but now I hear it's happening in other
places," says Principal Robert Lewis. "This company should be held

The company is manufacturer McQuay International. It's agreed to find
and pay for a fix for faulty electrical relays believed to have caused
the fires.

But McQuay's declined to tell CBS 2 News how many of the dangerous
Univents are still in use, nor will it reveal how many were sold to
schools in the suburbs or downstate.

At the State Board of Education, a spokesman said that on Friday it will
share information about the fire hazard in school heaters in an alert
sent to every public and private school in Illinois.

A spokesman for McQuay International says the company is working hard to
do the right thing, and they are testing potential fixes for the
electrical relays that apparently cause the fires.

The fire hazard exists in:
- American Air Filter (AAF) Classroom Unit
- Ventilator Series AZ 40 with electric heat
- Herman Nelson SC Univent Classroom Unit

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