When police and fire crews responded to a blaze caused by an explosion at a Brigham Young University dorm on Sunday, they found that it had been caused by a resident’s homemade “experiment”: rocket fuel.
The 22-year-old was cooking up about five pounds of a volatile mixture on the stovetop — wanting to experiment after seeing something about it online — when it “suddenly exploded into a fireball,” according to the BYU Police Department. Smoke was billowing out into the hallway, and the “intense heat” from the flames triggered the sprinkler system, flooding a main floor.
“It wasn’t a small amount — it was a potful,” said BYU Police Lt. Jeff Long about what the resident in the Provo, Utah, campus building had been making. “It really could have been catastrophic.”
There were no injuries, and Long said everyone was “so fortunate it didn’t engulf that entire building.”
Investigators are determining the extent of the damage, but Long estimated that it may cost at least $100,000 for cleanup and kitchen appliance replacements. The male student could be criminally charged with reckless burning or reckless endangerment, Long said, adding that fire and police investigators are discussing potential charges.
The incident, he said, was “nothing nefarious.”
“He was just experimenting,” Long said.
The resident has been cooperative and took sole responsibility for the incident. Authorities have not identified the individual, Long said.
A university spokesperson did not immediately share additional details about the incident with The Washington Post.
Photos shared by the police department show blackened, bubbling cabinets and walls, stretching up from a scorched stovetop. Other images show the hallway with standing water.
Because of the damage, largely from sprinkler flooding, 22 students have been displaced and are being housed elsewhere on campus, Long said. It could take two weeks for some of the affected areas to be dried out and cleaned up.
“This has definitely affected a lot of hardworking students,” he said. “You think homework, computers — all their work they’re putting into this semester has been drenched. They’re drying themselves out and just getting their stuff together.”
“Please keep your experiments in the lab and supervised by trained professionals,” the police department posted on Facebook after the explosion.