YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Ward Beecher Planetarium on Youngstown State University’s campus will be closed for the foreseeable future following a fire there Monday afternoon.
According to an alert sent by YSU’s emergency alert system, a fire was reported in the Ward Beecher building around 12:30 p.m. Smoke could be seen pouring from the roof.
Monday was the first day of the spring semester at YSU. There were 90 students in the classroom inside Ward Beecher Hall at the time of the fire.
“This is one of the busiest rooms on campus. We have five classes that go on, in the room,” said planetarium engineer Curt Spivey.
Luckily, no one was hurt.
A post on the Ward Beecher Planetarium’s Facebook page read, “With the detection of smoke from the roof area (far from the planetarium seats), the planetarium was quickly evacuated, and everyone, including all students, faculty are OK.”
Fire battalion Chief Jimmy Drummond said it was hard to get to the fire, but crews were able to contain it to one side of the planetarium. However, much of the roof over the planetarium had to be removed.
“The torch and stuff got down into the lower flat roof and behind the standing seam metal roof, and then it ran up vertical through the chase and got up above the planetarium,” Drummond said.
Youngstown Fire Department believes the fire started on the roof, where construction to update the building was taking place.
“They’re going to have to replace the entire roof. We’ve got water damage and smoke damage, we know. But we don’t know how it affects the starball or the video system or the sound system in the room. I won’t know that until I get in there,” Spivey said.
“The techs and stuff are obviously worried about [what’s] probably millions of dollars-worth of electronics and stuff inside there,” Drummond said.
The planetarium will be out of service for perhaps for a number of months. Public programs will be canceled, possibly through the end of its schedule through May 2023 — including the Rock The Dome programs.
“[Students are] not going to get the same experience because we can’t do the hands-on that we did with the planetarium,” Spivey said. “Pretty much, our public schedule is a wash, right now, for awhile. We were just getting back. We lost a lot of our schedule last January due to Omicron. This year, we have a fire.”
Classes in the building were canceled for the day, and the building is closed until further notice. Classes will resume at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Classes will continue for astronomy students. Professors say any updates on the restoration of the planetarium will be shared via its Facebook page.
Chelsea Simeon contributed to this story.