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Title: Fire shuts DuPont's Experimental Station

Early morning blaze keeps 4,200 away from their posts

By BILL YINGLING Staff reporter 03/30/2000

DuPont Co.'s Experimental Station in Alapocas closed Wednesday after a desktop printer fire sparked a chain of events that left much of the complex without power.

An estimated 4,200 employees were given the day off or had to find another place to work because of the outage, said Kathleen Shelton, a DuPont spokeswoman.

The Experimental Station is the center of DuPont's worldwide research and development efforts.

The fire started about 4 a.m. in a first-floor office of Building 304 near the center of the Experimental Station complex. The building houses offices and laboratories, Shelton said.

The fire was extinguished by the building's sprinkler system, said Tom Looney, chief of Talleyville Fire Company, which responded to the alarm.

The fire burned the printer and scorched an overhead cabinet, Looney said.

The sprinkler ran for about 30 minutes and water collected in a basement beneath the office.

About 4:15 a.m., the water caused basement electrical equipment to malfunction, cutting power for two hours to about 30 of 50 buildings at the station, Shelton said.

To give crews a chance to repair the equipment, managers decided to give all nonessential employees the day off or asked them to find alternative places to work at DuPont buildings in the area, Shelton said.

DuPont crews restored power to the complex by 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and executives plan to reopen the gates to the Experimental Station at 6 a.m. today, Shelton said.

The company tried to notify workers Wednesday morning by contacting local radio stations, Shelton said.

But many workers did not learn about the problem until they arrived.

"They basically got turned away at the gate," Shelton said.

The disruption caused a traffic jam along Del. 141 across the Tyler McConnell Bridge to Del. 100, Looney said.

"You had a traffic jam coming in and a traffic jam going back out," he said. "It was like a double rush hour."

Reach Bill Yingling at 324-2877 or


-- (, March 30, 2000

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