Lightning struck a vented area near the roof of the north end of Raley Chapel at about 8:15 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 11, causing a fire that was quickly doused by the Shawnee Fire Department. The minimal damage was primarily limited to ceiling tiles and some wet carpets.
The fire was extinguished by 10:30 a.m. While morning classes were moved or canceled, the chapel is expected be open sometime Thursday afternoon and the event schedule is not expected to change.
A student called the OBU Security force and Security Officer Willie Maddux arrived on the scene, saw dark smoke coming from the vents and pulled the fire alarm in Raley Chapel and evacuated students, faculty and staff.
Workers from OBU's physical plant led firefighters through a series of catwalks and crawlspaces to the area. Firefighters worked through some tight spaces, having to remove their air tanks temporarily to get through some tight spaces.
When the firefighters finally reached the source of smoke and sparks they had seen from afar, they encountered flames and discovered at least two bird nests that apparently were ignited by the lightning.
The firemen made special efforts to use as little water to put out the fire as possible, probably saving the university hundreds of dollars in water damage repairs. There was limited fire and smoke damage, primarily limited to the attic area.
There was no visible damage in Potter Auditorium other than some water on the carpet.