McCone Hall Evacuated Due to Flooding Caused by Burst Pipe

Photo: McCone Hall was partially flooded on Monday evening due to a burst pipe. Students worked together in order to block the stream of water from reaching the basement.
Amir Moghtaderi/Photo
McCone Hall was partially flooded on Monday evening due to a burst pipe. Students worked together in order to block the stream of water from reaching the basement.

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The basement of McCone Hall was partially flooded Monday evening after an old pipe suddenly burst outside, prompting a building evacuation and the shutting down of water and electricity to surrounding buildings.

Despite water reportedly rising several feet in the air, minor damage was inflicted inside the building, said Christine Shaff, communications director for facilities services. Shaff and a Berkeley Fire Department official said they did not know how much water was lost.

At about 6:20 p.m., the pipe burst with a "roaring sound," when professor William Dietrich was in his office on the third floor of McCone, directly above the site of the burst.

The burst, Shaff said, was due to a separation in a water line running to the building, which was caused by general wear and tear of the pipe and the pipe's age. She said there are no specific plans in place to ensure this does not occur again.

"We have infrastructure of varying ages so I would guess that we have some older and newer," Shaff said. "(Campus maintenance staff) do their best to maintain all of our infrastructure and as parts of it gets old, sometimes this just happens."

Dietrich said upon hearing the burst, he went downstairs where he and eight students began attempting to physically block the stream of water from reaching the basement, which houses both laboratory and electrical equipment, according to Dietrich.

UCPD and the Berkeley Fire Department arrived on the scene at 6:48 p.m., according to Gilbert Dong, deputy fire chief for the department, and UCPD proceeded to evacuate the building.

"Safety is our first priority," said UCPD Lt. Alex Yao, who was not on site at the time of the burst, but added that the standard response for police in these situations is to evacuate the building and aid in minimizing damage.

But, Dietrich, who said an officer threatened to arrest him while he was attempting to minimize damage, explained a different view of the events.

"What we witnessed was that the police response was to just watch, and in my particular case, to interfere with trying to prevent the building from being flooded to where the electrical system could have been destroyed," Dietrich said. "The firemen helped and got it done, but I did not understand the division of labor."

Yao said he was not aware of the interaction between Dietrich and the officer and that he could not comment, but added that he would encourage the professor to contact UCPD about the incident.

Shaff said the basement's clean-up was mostly complete Monday night, although a classroom, laboratory and hallway did sustain minor damages to the floors and edges of the rooms. As of press time, campus maintenance staff were drying out the basement. Shaff said the cost of the damage is still uncertain.

McCone's electricity was back up at midnight Tuesday, just hours after the burst, and water was running again at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday. Shaff said no classes were canceled due to the burst.


Contact Jessica Rossoni at [email protected]

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