Last updated at 12 p.m. Monday, July 15.
Two explosions occurred Friday, July 5, 2019, on campus that damaged Argenta and Nye Halls, two of the University’s residential buildings. The explosions are believed to be an isolated incident that occurred in Argenta’s boiler room. Residential Life staff and emergency personnel responded swiftly and comprehensively to secure the buildings and ensure the safety of students and staff. Eight people were treated for minor injuries. The safety of all students, guests and staff is our highest priority.
Was anyone hurt?
Eight people, of which six were students, were treated for minor injuries. There were no deaths. All summer residents and staff are safe and accounted for. We are very grateful to the fast-thinking Residential Life staff who evacuated Argenta Hall following an initial explosion and for the unified response by area first responders.
How did the University respond?
In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, first responders and emergency personnel secured the scene and conducted a search of both buildings. Residential Life staff set up a command center and began calling every resident to make sure they were safe and accounted for. The University also released public messages about the incident, and requested that residents call or email to let us know they were safe. Housing staff and student employees worked quickly to open Peavine Hall and prepare beds for residents displaced from Argenta. Nevada Dining served dinner in the Overlook Café.
Staff, students, faculty and the community pitched in and pulled together immediately, and have worked tirelessly since Friday afternoon to meet the needs of everyone affected.
Is there reason to worry about safety of other residence halls?
We have no reason to believe that the other residence halls are unsafe. Our residence halls are well-maintained year-round with inspections conducted on regular schedules.
We are confident this was an isolated incident. The safety of all students, guests and staff is our highest priority.
Is Argenta Hall in danger of collapsing?
No. Thanks in large part to the way the buildings were constructed, Argenta and Nye Halls are structurally sound. Multiple structural engineers from the Nevada Urban Search and Rescue Task Force have inspected the buildings and have said Argenta Hall performed as it should in a situation like this. We have been given a strong assurance, by these engineers, that the buildings are structurally sound.
Is campus open this week?
Yes. Classes resumed Saturday, July 6.
What closures, if any, can be anticipated around campus?
Sierra Street and Virginia Street are open. Artemesia Way will be indefinitely closed. Artemesia Building, which houses the University’s Department of Human Resources, opened Thursday, July 11 and is on its normal operating schedule.
How were all Argenta Hall residents accounted for?
In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, Residential Life set up a command center and began calling every resident to make sure they were safe and accounted for. The University also released public messages about the incident, and requested that residents call or email to let us know they were safe. Housing staff and student employees worked quickly to open Peavine Hall and prepare beds for residents displaced from Argenta. Nevada Dining served dinner in the Overlook Café.
Injured students have been followed up with as have the staff and students who were evacuated.
Will Argenta Hall students be able to retrieve their personal belongings?
Reunifying students with their personal belongings from their rooms in Argenta has been ongoing. Structural engineers have been on site since Saturday afternoon and have determined the building safe to enter and begin to retrieve those personal items. Priority was placed on items such as passports and personal medication. Students will be reunified with their personal belongings. We appreciate their understanding and patience of the students impacted.
University Police Services, working with the Reno Fire Department, has been able to retrieve some critical personal items from Argenta, such as medications, passports and laptops. Gift cards are being provided to the students to cover other needs. Since the incident occurred Friday, we have circulated the following numbers for students, parents and anyone else who might have concerns or need information about housing, food and parking on campus. These numbers are: 775-784-1113 or 775-682-8241 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . In addition, our staff in Student Services continue to offer support and access to immediate resources to help all students with emotional and informational needs.
What additional services have been made available to the affected students?
All of our services, including crisis counseling services, have been made available. Counseling Services can be reached at 775-784-4648; the Crisis Call Hotline is 775-784-8090. Members of our Education, Psychology and Social Work faculty have stepped forward as well to help in this effort, within three hours of it occurring. Faculty has also been asked to work with summer school students affected by the Argenta Hall explosion.
What caused the explosions?
According to a statement from State Fire Marshal Bart Chambers delivered at a press conference on campus Tuesday, July 9, the explosion that occurred Friday, July 5, in Argenta Hall was “an isolated incident within the boiler room.”
A boiler technician arrived on campus at Argenta Hall Friday, July 5, in order to repair and replace a part on one of Argenta’s boilers, Boiler No. 1, which was having problems earlier in the week and had been shut down since then. The initial boiler explosion occurred between 12:42 and 12:44 p.m. A 3-inch gas line feeder was severed at the junction from the initial explosion with active fire from the line. The fire alarm system and automatic fire sprinkler system was activated. Occupants in the building evacuated. Fire from the initial explosion was extinguished by the building’s fire suppression system. Natural gas filled the basement area where the two boilers are located, and traveled to the upper portions of Argenta Hall. The main gas line was shut off from the exterior of the building. Following dispatch, Reno Fire Department arrived on scene. A second explosion occurred at approximately 1 p.m., causing significant damage to Argenta and Nye Hall, injuring eight people.
Was the boiler in Argenta Hall in compliance with Nevada State regulations?
As of today, the University does not have any active boiler or pressure-vessel issues with outstanding violations. Specifically, the two boilers in the boiler room of Argenta Hall were last inspected Jan. 10, 2018, by a state-certified third-party boiler inspection company. Both of these boilers are water-tube boilers and, as such, require inspection and permit every 24 months, meaning the permits expire Jan. 10, 2020.
Additionally, the Division of Industrial Relations shows no history of violations of these boilers located at Argenta Hall. The company that had conducted the inspections at Argenta Hall were licensed and certified with the State of Nevada.
What more is the University, along with the Nevada Department of Public Safety, doing to ensure the safety of its residence halls?
Bart Chambers, the Nevada State Fire Marshal, has directed his staff to address fire-life safety inspections of all dorms within the University, working side-by-side with the Division of Industrial Relations and the University, starting Thursday, July 11.
Chambers said he is committed to ensuring that the fire and life safety of those who are residing in these dorms and will partner with the University to also provide additional fire and life safety information to incoming and current students.”
Has an emergency declaration been initiated?
The University has not filed for an emergency declaration at this time. As things progress, the University will reach out to the Governor's Office as needed.
Will the University be raising student tuition to cover the expenses associated with this event?
That is not the case. In June 2018, the Nevada System of Higher Education voted and approved a four percent tuition increase, which is set to take place this fall. There will be no additional burden placed on the students.
Why was the University seeking donations instead of using its own resources?
The donation day, was a response to the outpouring of support from the community asking what could be done to help, ‘The response was overwhelming and extremely appreciated by the students.
Residence Hall and dining-related questions
When will we find out about housing assignments for Fall 2019?
While housing assignments will be slightly delayed, the Division of Student Services is working diligently to ensure all of the University students who have requested housing are accommodated in the year to come.
Student Services is in a very active process of securing 1,300 beds for the students who are displaced by the inability to live in Argenta and Nye Halls. The University welcomes students to campus for the fall semester in just over 40 days. They will have a good facility to live in and a great staff who will make sure they have an amazing experience as new students at the University. That doesn’t change, whatever building they are in and wherever they are.
With the main dining service for Residence Hall students out of commission, where will new students eat?
The Student Services team is working around the clock to prepare a plan that will provide a first-class experience for all of our campus residents. Nevada Dining has transitioned the Overlook Café to the All-You-Care-To-Eat Resident Dining Facility. All meal plan holders and summer groups participating in meal plan services are welcome to visit during the meal times of Monday through Friday: Breakfast, 6:30 a.m.-9 a.m.; Lunch, 11 a.m-1:30 p.m.; Dinner 4:30 p.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday: Brunch 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; Dinner 5-6 p.m. For sandwiches, salads and specialty drinks visit www.dineoncampus.com/unr
How is the University planning to house students for summer orientation?
In the short-term, we have already done extensive planning and are confident that the upcoming New Student Orientation sessions on our campus will be a success. Participants in overnight sessions, July 8-9, July 11-12, July 15-16, and July 18-19, will stay in residence halls that were not affected by the explosion. Students and orientation guides will stay in the Nevada Living Learning Center as planned. Parents and other guests staying on campus will be housed in Sierra Hall. Meals that would have taken place in the Downunder Café during orientation will now take place in the Joe Crowley Student Union. The Student Services team is making every effort to ensure that the students and families will enjoy a full, fun and informative program of events during orientation.