Vaughn College fire wrecks break

The city’s Bravest respond to an electrical fire at Vaughn College that knocked out power to the building and left some students without a spring break. Photo by Joe Anuta
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The driver of a delivery truck who ran into some exposed electrical lines at Vaughn College last week did more than cause a small explosion and fire — that driver may have also destroyed spring break.

“Somebody ruined our vacation,” said first-semester student Lucas Gomez. “No fair.”

The bummer began just after 10 a.m. March 14, when a driver delivering materials to a construction site at the aeronautics and technical school did not see a set of cones blocking a hole in the ground, according to FDNY Battalion 49 Chief Jim Kane.

A portion of the truck landed on some exposed wires, which caused a small explosion and a fire to break out in the hole, Kane said.

In addition, a fire broke out inside the college’s electrical room, he said, which caused the entire building to lose power.

The city’s Bravest responded in minutes and extinguished the first set of flames while the sprinkler system took care of the fire inside, according to Kane.

But the sprinklers did not shut off, and the continued spray of water created thick black smoke that rose from the small school and wafted throughout a portion of the building where no one was attending class, Kane said.

There were no injuries reported, according to the FDNY — at least, no physical injuries.

Some students might have to make up classes during the school’s spring break, which runs from March 19 -25, according to a school spokesman.

In addition to aeronautics and engineering courses, the college also offers an airplane mechanic school, called the Aviation Training Institute, spokesman Ernie Shepelsky said.

The Federal Aviation Administration has strict requirements for the course, which produces the men and women who perform maintenance on airplanes and stipulates that each graduate must spend at least 1,900 hours in class.

The college will be offering classes during spring break for those particular students, since missing those hours is not an option.

“For those students who already have plans, we’ll hold another round after finals,” Shepelsky said.

But students in the program who were milling around outside were not pleased and had some choice words for the driver of the delivery truck.

“He should make up the classes for us,” said first-semester student Kevin Holguin.

And to add insult to injury, the school was shut down for the rest of the week while Con Edison attempted to restore power to the building, meaning that for other students spring break started a half-week early.

Students said after alarms went off inside the school, professors and classmates dismissed the noise as a simple drill.

“Then the security guard came in and said, ‘The building’s on fire,’” Gomez said. “When we came out, the Fire Department was already here.”

In addition to the FDNY, the city Office of Emergency Management was on the scene.

According to Kane, jet fuel stored on the property and the large number of people triggered the office’s involvement.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 6:56 pm, March 21, 2012
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