Radioactivity checks on tap after Duke fire

Staff WriterSeptember 12, 2006 

— Environmental safety officers will continue to monitor the air in a medical research building for radioactivity after a fire swept through a lab Monday morning.

The fire caused extensive damage to a 2,000-square-foot lab in the Nanaline H. Duke Building on Research Drive, officials said.

No injuries were reported.

Although some compounds with low levels of radioactive materials were stored for research in laboratory freezers, Wayne Thomann, director of Duke's Occupational & Environmental Safety Office, said no radioactivity was released.

"We'll continue to monitor," Thomann said. "Nothing has been found at this time to indicate there's a release of any radioactive materials or biological agents."

The fire was reported at 6:17 a.m., according to Duke officials.

At that time, the smell of smoke hung in the city. A yard waste fire at the city landfill on East Club Boulevard that began the night before still burned.

Durham firefighters extinguished the Duke fire Monday morning. Durham fire investigators have ruled the incident an accident but continued to investigate the cause.

Access to the building will be restricted today, Duke officials said.

Research Drive, a road that winds through the west side of Duke's West Campus, was closed for several hours after the fire was reported.

Staff writer Anne Blythe can be reached at 932-8741 or ablythe@newsobserver.com.

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