Diag kiosk fire disrupts computer, phone service

A kiosk fire discovered by Campus Security officers at 1:45 a.m. Sept. 19 on the Diag in front of the Undergraduate Library has caused at least $100,000 in damage to fiberoptic and coaxial cables, located in steam tunnels beneath the Diag, that provide computer, telephone and electrical service to many Central Campus buildings.

The Diag area is a major fiberoptic network hub for the entire UMTel system.

The fire was quickly extinguished by Campus Security officers, but hot melted plastic dropped into the steam tunnel, starting a fire in the circuitry. The fire smoldered and spread undetected for several hours. Alarms began going off at UMTel at 5 a.m. Sept. 19.

Buildings affected by the fire damage include the Undergraduate Library, Randall Laboratory, the Chemistry Building, Willard Henry Dow Laboratory, West Engineering Building, Museum of Art, West Quadrangle and the Dana Building, as well as the campus computing sites in the Frieze Building, Michigan Union and Angell Hall.

Power and computer and telephone service to these buildings were out for much of the weekend. UMTel crews worked around-the-clock and had all service restored on a temporary basis by

8 a.m. Sept. 21.

Fixing the damage permanently will be expensive and complicated, according to Roxana L. Block, director of telecommunications systems, Information Technology Division.

Repairs cannot be made in the tunnels, Block explains, because it’s too hot for people and equipment to be down there for long periods of time.

Block estimates that crews will need to pull and replace approximately 14,000 feet of fiberoptic and coaxial cable, circuits and routers.

Once new parts and cable arrive, UMTel work crews will begin replacing damaged sections. Repairs will be scheduled over several weeks, probably at night or on weekends, with minimal service disruption in the affected buildings, Block says.

According to Lt. James R. Smiley of University Police, no one was in the area when security officers discovered the fire, so there are no suspects in the case.

Because of the level of damage, however, University Police are actively pursuing leads.

Anyone with information on who may have started the fire may call Smiley directly at 763-3434. All calls will be confidential.

Individuals who experience network difficulty as permanent repairs are being made should call 764-4357 (4-HELP) to report the problem.


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