Mysterious smells in Centennial Hall

Joey Arthur, Reporter

On Thursday, Feb. 17, There were reports of a mysterious smell and smoke coming from Centennial Hall’s Penthouse. A campus-wide emergency email was sent out to students telling them to keep away from Centennial Hall and students that were already there were being evacuated from the building. Campus police as well as the Wichita Falls Fire Department reported to the scene of the incident. David Wilk, police officer and first on the scene gave his statement.

“They dispatched me at 2:39 in the afternoon and I arrived at 2:40 for a smoke alarm that goes off in the police department. I walked up to the penthouse, unlocked it and the room had some smoke in it but it smelt awfully bad and at first I thought it was natural gas. I then radioed dispatch and Chief Coggins along with Sergeant Synder, Detective Love and Officer Callarman responded alongside the fire department who were in route,” Wilk said.

The emergency email sent out described the incident as a gas leak but upon further investigation, it turned out to not be the case. Wilk described the situation regarding the smell.

“After evacuating people from the fourth floor, I went back up to the penthouse and the fire department opened up the adjoining doors and you could see all the smoke and then they said that the smoke came from a malfunction in the HVAC system and the smell was from the friction created by the fan belts in the HVAC system,” Wilk said.

No persons were hurt or injured during the event of the incident. Wilk praises Police Chief, Patrick Coggins for his setup in preventing and/or minimalizing harm to individuals in the event of an emergency.

“As soon as an incident like that happens, a timely notice is sent out and people get it on their phones and emails and he coordinated the evacuation of students, faculty, staff and anyone else in the building before sending in the fire department to investigate the smoke and smell,” Wilk said.

Students in the building felt scared and frustrated but cooperated with the police in getting evacuated. The day of the incident was confusing and irritating for students according to Zayadrian Alaniz, nursing freshman. She described her frustration with the events of Feb. 17.

“I was at centennial studying in the lounge downstairs when I started to smell something weird. It smelt like burning rubber but much worse. As I was packing up my stuff to leave, a police officer walked in and started telling everyone to get up and go outside. I got really scared but I grabbed all my stuff and went outside and there were cops outside and a fire truck was driving towards centennial. I was frustrated because I needed to study and I like studying at centennial, I was glad I got out okay especially after seeing the gas leak email,” Alaniz said.

Although there wasn’t a gas leak, the fan belts in the HVAC system were damaged but that was the only damage in Centennial Hall. Wilk was grateful to everyone that responded and was at the incident.

“It was Chief Coggins and Sergeant Snyder that coordinated everything like setting up a perimeter so people don’t wander in, making sure the traffic didn’t get bottlenecked to where the fire trucks can’t come in and Detective Love and Officer Callarman also assisted in the chief and sergeant’s orders. Thanks to the Fire department for checking out the smoke on the penthouse,” Wilk said.