Sprinklers installed after 2007 blaze douse ASU Memorial Union fire

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TEMPE, Ariz. – A small fire at Arizona State University’s Memorial Union Tuesday morning was quickly doused thanks to upgrades put in place after a major fire in November 2007.

That fire closed MU, which is a hub of student activity, for more than two months. During that time, $40 million in repairs and renovations, including the implementation of new fire prevention methods, were completed. Fire detection, warning, barrier and suppression systems were installed on each floor of MU.

The installation of those fire-prevention measures paid off when a small fire broke out in the kitchen of Jamba Juice Tuesday morning.

“ASU did a great job of bringing it up to code,” said Mike Reichling of the Tempe Fire Department. “Because of the sprinklers this morning, the fire was checked.”

There was some relatively minor water damage from the sprinkler system, which is tied to the alarm system and engaged as soon as the alarms sounded.

The sprinklers kept the fire from blowing up into a situation like the one firefighters faced in 2007. When that fire broke out, some 5,000 people were inside MU and had to be evacuated. The parquet floors and polyurethane chairs burned fast and extremely hot, making the situation dangerous for firefighters.

That wasn’t the case Tuesday morning. By the time firefighters arrived, all they had to do was mop up.

“These sprinkler systems are a godsend for us," Reichling said. "It worked exactly the way it’s supposed to.”

No injuries were reported and the damage was minimal. ASU said it expected to reopen MU later Tuesday afternoon.

MU was built in 1956 and has undergone several renovations over the years, most recently after the 2007 fire.