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Canadian University College Uses Science Centre Explosion as Opportunity to Improve Complex


On October 8, 2013 unstable chemical vapors connected with an electrical spark igniting a small explosion in the chemical preparation and storage room of the Chan Shun Science Centre at Canadian University College in Lacombe, Alberta.

The resulting fire set off the building’s sprinkler system, which caused significant water damage to the complex. Water flowed downstairs to the first floor and continued to the basement level of the science building. It ruined the drywall covering a first floor wing and some lab benches and cupboards.

Several quick-thinking students studying nearby noticed the smoke from the explosion and pulled a fire alarm. They called 9-1-1 and checked that nobody was hurt before exiting the building.

The fire and water damage has topped $850,000 to date, paid for by the university’s insurance policy. However, some renovation projects in the complex have not yet been completed. Dr. Bruce Buttler, Dean of the Division of Science, noted that the chemistry preparation room, where the accident occurred, still requires work. Permits are pending to construct an “explosion-proof” room. The room would contain a sprinkler system that would utilize a dry chemical instead of water.

A year after the mishap, on October 24, 2014, CUC hosted an official reopening ceremony of the Chan Shun Science Centre. Although the building has been in use since the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, the students and faculty members attending the event took the reopening as an opportunity to celebrate.

The reopening of the building wasn’t the only cause for celebration. CUC President Dr. Mark Haynal led in commemoration of the Chan Shun Science Centre’s 20th anniversary. 

“For 20 years this building has been a place where students prepared themselves for lives of service in medicine, dentistry, and other healing professions,” Haynal wrote on the university website’s President’s Page.  “Every time you enter this building, I ask that you commit yourself to a life of doing good, a life of being a service to others,” he said.

Student Association President Nisha Johny took the opportunity to thank the faculty and staff of CUC for not only rebuilding the science centre but also making it even better than it had been before accident.

Haynal agreed that the opportunity to re-vamp the science building was a silver lining. “As a result of this damage, we could do some remodeling to the labs,” he said. “We could rearrange and reorganize in a way that might never have been done otherwise.”

After a prayer, Haynal, Johny, Buttler, and CUC Chaplain Adam Deibert, cut a ribbon officially reopening the building.

During a reception that followed the ribbon cutting, students entered a drawing to win one of two $500 gift cards to honor the happy occasion.


Rachel Logan is a writing intern for Spectrum.

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