Busy three-day results in only one significant fire loss

Hillsboro Fire Department volunteer Jason Rooker loads gear back into the firetruck park in front of the Tabor College Student Center Monday morning. The smoke that prompted the evacuation of students turned out to be an electrical motor malfunction.

Students, faculty and staff were safely evacuated from the Student Center at Tabor College at around 9 a.m. Monday after smoke was discovered in the campus bookstore.

Hillsboro firefighters located the source of the smoke in an overheated fan motor in the building?s heating system.

?There were no students in any danger at any time,? said Kirby Fadenrecht, vice president for business and finance.

In addition to the bookstore, the cafeteria, gymnasium and athletic offices are located in the Student Center.

According to Hillsboro Fire Chief Ben Steketee, everyone had been safely evacuated from the building by Tabor staff and Hillsboro police before the first firefighters arrived.

?We went in with a thermal imaging camera and did an interior search but didn?t really find anything,? Steketee said. ?The interior team called for more firefighters to help search, and they?ve got it locked down to a fan motor that?s overheated.?

Tabor maintenance personnel helped firefighters locate the source of the smoke.

?Apparently, the motor burned out,? Fadenrecht said. ?The thermal camera located a 250-degree hot spot in the fan unit, and when the unit was opened, the fire department determined it was the motor.

?The motor was old and it runs during heating season 24 hours a day, so no surprise given the age of the building. There probably was never any significant danger to the building, but we?re thankful the situation occurred this morning rather than during the weekend.

After smoke was cleared from the building and the power was turned back on, students, faculty and staff were able to eat lunch in the cafeteria.

Fadenrecht said the smoke had seeped into clothing on sale at the bookstore.

?Watch for the ?fire sale? coming soon of bookstore clothing?no joke, unfortunately,? he said.

Barn destroyed by Sunday fire

The Hillsboro Fire Depart?ment responded to three fire calls over the weekend.

The most serious occurred Sunday afternoon and resulted in the destruction of a barn at the rural residence of Deran and Sharon Siebert along 190th, 41⁄2 miles east of Hillsboro.

Fire Chief Ben Steketee said the location of the residence is actually in the Marion district, but the Marion fire chief asked the Hillsboro department to respond as well because it was closer.

Steketee said he was the first firefighter to arrive on the scene at about 3 p.m., and found the barn ?full involved? with two propane tanks in close proximity.

Hillsboro Brush Truck No. 4 arrived next, with water being shuttled to the location by the Hillsboro and Marion departments.

Steketee said the fire started when the owner attempted to burn away some dead grass near the barn and lost control of the flames. The barn was used mostly for storage, he added, with family memorabilia being the major content loss.

On Saturday evening, the department responded to two roadside grass fires, one along Limestone just north of 230th, and the other, 30 minutes later, between Jade and Indigo on 260th.

Steketee said the similarities of the two incidents, plus the short time between them, prompted him to suspect arson, which he reported to the sheriff?s office. But Steketee said he did not find any evidence of an ignition device when he returned to the scenes Monday.

?There?s really nothing to go on other than our suspicion,? Steketee said. ?I don?t think it will go much further than that.?

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