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UW-River Falls responds to unrelated emergencies on Saturday

UW-River Falls experienced two separate, unrelated incidents on Saturday, including a suspicious package and a fire.

At about 3:20 p.m. a student employee who was sorting mail in May Hall detected a suspicious noise coming from a package. The package also was heavily taped in an unusual manner and campus staff could not determine how the package was delivered to the mail sorting room.

Public Safety and the River Falls Police Department, with UWRF senior staff, responded to the problem, and searched the residence hall to clear it of about 25 students.

The Emogene A. Nelson Center, which is connected to May Hall, also was secured. River Falls Police closed off Spruce Street next to the residence hall, and students were intercepted from entering the buildings.

A bomb disposal unit from Marathon County responded to a call for assistance and arrived about 8:30 p.m. Once on the scene they X-rayed and breached the package as a precaution. The package was found to contain greeting cards with sound devices.

Students were allowed to return to the residence hall at about 10 p.m.

Chancellor Don Betz praised the residence hall students and employees for their prompt decision-making when a credible threat was detected.

"Their actions and attitudes were exceptional. I thank them for their efforts on Saturday, and each day as we build our university based on values worth modeling and on effective collaboration."

On Saturday evening at about 8:45 p.m. students called in a fire in a hay storage building on Laboratory Farm No. 1. Seven units responded from the River Falls, Hudson, Prescott and Ellsworth fire departments and contained the fire by 9:45 p.m.

Because of smoke and noise from the pumping trucks, students and staff evacuated horses from adjacent facilities. No injuries occurred to either individuals or livestock.

A contractor working on a Lab Farm project assisted firefighters by using a backhoe to rip open walls to the metal building to provide better access to the center of the fire. Later, the backhoe was employed to knock down the roof in an effort to help douse the fire.

According to River Falls Police Chief Roger LeQue, through a continuing investigation by the Police Department and Campus Safety, two male juveniles, ages 13 and 14 from River Falls, have been identified who police believe are responsible for setting the fire. The two juveniles are in the process of being referred to juvenile court.

The Hay Storage Building measures 2,580 square feet in gross floor area. It

was a metal-sided,wood pole building built in 1981.   The replacement cost will be about   $28,000. The value of the estimated 5,000 bales of hay lost in the blaze is $18,750. The building is self-insured by the State of Wisconsin.


Statement of Chancellor Don Betz on Saturday's Fire

On Saturday night fire struck and consumed a hay barn at Lab Farm No. 1.   As the fire built in intensity inside the corrugated structure producing billowing smoke, I watched at the scene as the men and women of the River Falls, Ellsworth, Prescott and Hudson fire departments successfully tackled, contained and extinguished the stubborn blaze.

It reminded me of another night in a small Oklahoma town 30 years ago when fire nearly cost the town its main street and more than a few lives. Then, as on last Saturday night, it was the town and region that responded through the exceptional dedication of full time and volunteer firefighters and police officers. UW-River Falls lost a building and hay, but our colt barn, horses and other invaluable property were not damaged.

I want to publicly thank the men and women from all the above mentioned fire departments as well as River Falls Police Department and UWRF's Public Security officers, the staffs from both Lab Farm No. 1 and No. 2, and our faculty and students whose dedication have built the reputation of the equine program and the farms. All responded to this challenge.

As I viewed the scene on Sunday morning, I breathed a sigh of relief and of thanks for the good people who are our neighbors and who serve all of us in these essential public service roles.

I have just expanded my list of heroes.


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:08:37 Central Daylight Time


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