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False Alarms Empty Widener; Fan Cited As Culprit

By Richard F. Strasser

The two fire alarms that emptied Widener Library Tuesday afternoon were probably caused by a fan blowing on a heat detector, Robbie Mesheau, a Buildings and Grounds fire equipment supervisor, said yesterday.

However, Mesheau said he could not be sure what triggered the device.

Frank Lamentea, assistant business manager of the University Library, said yesterday he has been questioning employees for the past two days but added he doubts he will be able to find the culprit. "I don't think anyone would know if he did anything wrong," he said.

Mesheau said that the two alarms, one at 1:15 p.m., the other at 4 p.m., probably stemmed from the same cause. But he said there have been no false alarms since Tuesday.

Mesheau said the alarm did not malfunction. He said the system was very sensitive and a small thing such as smoking in a restricted area could set it off.

Donald Corradi, branch manager of Pyrotronics Inc., the firm that installed the system, yesterday agreed with Mesheau's analysis, saying he had heard of a case where heating some wax triggered a similar heat detection unit.

Pyrotronics installed the Widener system about ten years ago. Corradi said the system was relatively new, as the devices usually have a life of 50 to 60 years. Corradi said there have not been any major problems with the Widener system, and pointed out it has picked up several fires.

Mesheau said every alarm system in the University is tested monthly and that maintenance crews clean them at these inspections.

"With some 250 devices installed in buildings all around campus," Mesheau added, "you've got to have some minor problems."

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