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Fire breaks out on roof of hospital

by Parker Loew

On Wednesday at 1:31 p.m., the Ely Fire Department was dispatched to a structure fire on the roof of Ely Bloomenson Community Hospital.

Upon arrival, firefighters found hospital maintenance personnel working on a rooftop exhaust stack which directs heat out of the hospital’s backup generator room.

Smoke and a small amount of flame were seen coming from the roof around the exhaust stack.

Hospital personnel had discharged several fire extinguishers in an attempt to control the fire and subdue the flame.

The small fire was eventually extinguished by a hose line routed to the roof from one of the Fire Departments Hummers.

After the flame was put out, firefighters opened an area on the roof roughly three feet by three feet around the exhaust stack.

“Ely Fire Department personnel identified significant heat buildup in the roof around the stack using a thermal-imaging camera,” said Fire Chief Dave Marshall.

The rubber roof membrane, two layers of insulation, and the steel roof deck were removed to ensure no further fire extension into the roof system.

The cause of the fire was determined to have been directly related to a scheduled generator test.

“I was told there have been a few heating issues in the generator room at the hospital when they test the generators,” said Marshall.

They recently put insulation in the generator room to keep the room cooler, as the exhaust from the generator was making the room very hot.  After the insulation was added, more heat moved through the exhaust stack than before.

“That heat has to go somewhere, and what happened is that increased heat created the fire,” Marshall said. “I believe the insulation solved one problem but created another.”

Babbitt Fire was deployed but canceled en route as the situation was under control.

“Ely Bloomenson Community Hospital is to be commended on their emergency response planning and the competence of their employees,” said Marshall.

The hospital’s emergency operations plan was put into effect resulting in the evacuation of non-critical employees while essential operations continued throughout the incident.

“Our team followed our fire plan, which did not impact EBCH patient care or the residents of Boundary Waters Care Center,” said Martin.

No patients at the hospital or the adjacent nursing home were evacuated.

“We thank our quick-acting staff and the community emergency response teams that responded to our facility,” said Jodi Martin, Marketing & Communications Team Leader at Ely Bloomenson Community Hospital.

Ely Fire Department found hospital staff calm, knowledgeable of their facilities and processes, and cooperative.

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