Argenta Hall explosion report: Cause of big explosion unknown

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The state of Nevada released its report on the Argenta Hall explosion and it is unable to conclude what sparked the second, larger explosion July 5, 2019 that damaged Argenta and Nye halls on the University of Nevada, Reno campus.

This is a screenshot from a video included in a Nevada State Fire Marshal report on the Argenta Hall explosion of the instant of the explosion.

The first explosion happened during repair of Boiler #1 by Battle Born Boiler and it severed a 3-inch natural gas line to the boiler, according to the State Fire Marshal report released Aug. 26. Investigator Eric Guevin concluded it was a latent explosion, or backfire, which happened during the adjustment of the boiler, the report said.

About 6,000 cubic feet of natural gas filled the Argenta Hall lower floors and basement, the report said. The Reno Fire Department responded, unaware of the first explosion, and had firefighters on scene when the second, larger explosion happened about 10 minutes later. Crews on scene requested a third alarm response.

KOLO reported on July 25 that the explosion stemmed from boiler reoairs.

Surveillance camera video released with the State Fire Marshal’s report captured the larger explosion. A fire truck with lights flashing was stopped on Artemesia Way next to Argenta Hall. Traffic passes along North Virginia Street. Then smoke shoots out from Argenta Hall and students who had gathered in on the sidewalk in front of Davidson Academy on the UNR campus are seen scrambling.

“The fugitive gas was then ignited by one of several potential ignition sources which caused the second and largest explosion,” the summary said. “The ignition source for the second explosion could not be determined. Those sources ranged from the cafeteria cooking equipment, dormitory laundry equipment (adjacent to elevator shaft), elevator cars operating, or an unspecified tenant ignition source in Argenta Hall.”

Eight people suffered minor injuries. The damage closed both Argenta and Nye halls and students are now living in Wolf Pack tower at Circus Circus.

UNR President Marc Johnson released a statement Thursday, saying it was humbling the way the community and state rallied to help the university after the explosion.

“The explosion was an event without precedent for our campus,” Johnson said in the statement. “Yet the people of our University haven’t wavered. Our University Police Services, Student Services and Organizational Resiliency people have been working tirelessly since July 5. People throughout campus have volunteered to help, to take up extra duties so that those closest to our students can continue to make sure they are okay. Our resolve was tested on July 5. We are now more resolute than ever to continue on the daily life and the daily mission of our campus – which is to always make our University the best place it can possibly be.”

The Aug. 26 release includes a summary, a full report and more than 1,700 photographs.


Copyright KOLO-TV 2019

The Downunder Cafe in a photograph included with the Nevada State Fire Marshal report on the Argenta Hall explosion.