Flame retardant mishap closes Calhoun dining for a night

Hungry Hounies looking for dinner Tuesday night were turned away from their dining hall doors by what a posted sign characterized as “unforeseen circumstances.”

Around 4 p.m., hood fire protection systems in the basement kitchen of the Calhoun College dining hall sprayed flame retardants throughout the room, although a fire had not actually broken out, Charles Bennett, assistant director of Yale University Dining Services, said.

“It did kind of squelch our plans for dinner,” he said Tuesday evening. “Food that was exposed was discarded. Employees are cleaning it up now.”

A cook was in the vicinity at the time of the retardant blast but remained unscathed, Bennett said. No one was injured, and the retardant poses no health risk, he said.

Still, dining-hall staff continued to clean up for several hours after the discharge. Other staff transferred to Berkeley College to accommodate the anticipated influx of hungry students, and signs posted in Calhoun urged students to eat in Commons dining hall.

As of Tuesday evening, the reason for the discharge remained unknown. Usually such systems are set off by either a heat source or smoke, said Russ Alling, assistant manager of the Silliman College dining hall. Bennett said systems are serviced on a regular basis, and Alling added that all such systems are in compliance with maintenance codes, even though individual systems can vary from college to college.

Calhoun dining hall manager Ryan Bochman declined to comment on the incident.

“I’m really disappointed,” Calhoun resident Emily Howell ’11 said after discovering that the dining hall was closed. “I hope they get everything cleaned up in time for breakfast.”

Howell’s wish will be granted, as Calhoun will have reopened for breakfast today, Bennett said.

-Zachary Abrahamson contributed reporting.

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