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At 1:30 a.m. on Friday morning, Michael Nechayev GS was working on the third floor of the near-empty Frick Chemistry Laboratory when he smelled something weird. 

Nechayev traced the smell to a storage room a few doors down. Inside, a light fixture had fallen down and sparked a fire, igniting a stack of cardboard boxes. 

“It was a really surreal moment,” Nechayev said. “As a lab researcher you’re trained to handle accidents and emergencies caused by people, but you don’t really expect to walk into an empty lab at 1 a.m. and see half a room on fire.”

Nechayev immediately called the Department of Public Safety. Firefighters then arrived on campus from the town of Princeton, Princeton Junction, the Princeton Plasma Plasma Physics Laboratory, Plainsboro, and Rocky Hill, according to a University statement.

The building’s sprinkler system was activated and contained the flames to the storage room, where a firefighter was able to put them out with a fire extinguisher.

The flaming boxes that Nechayev had seen contained vials, pipes, and other chemical laboratory supplies but no hazardous materials, according to Assistant Vice President for Communications Dan Day. 

The building was briefly closed while firefighters were on scene.

Water from the sprinkler system dripped from the third to the second floor, getting some papers and computers wet, but a University Facilities crew mopped up the water early in the morning. 

There was no significant structural or equipment damage in the building from the fire or from smoke, Day said. 

“It could have been much worse,” Nechayev said.

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