From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 3 - January 17, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Server room fire limits district network

by Jennie Oemig

Over a week later, Sublette County School District #1 was still feeling the effects of the Jan. 3 power outage.

A fire in the server room at the administration building on Jan. 5 is expected to have

caused thousands of dollars in equipment damage and will limit the amount of network access within the district.

“I showed up on Saturday and the room was completely full of smoke,” Technology Director Justin Miller said.

When Rocky Mountain Power began switching back and forth between circuits while trying to install the new transformer on Jan. 3, the air conditioner in the server room was affected, Miller said.

“The motor in the air conditioning unit is three phase,” he explained. “The power company was only supplying one phase … Once the motor stops spinning, you have to have some place for that heat to go and it just started a fire.”

The fire alarms went off in the middle of the Pinedale Wranglers’ basketball game against Worland and the gym had to be evacuated until the fire department came and OK’d the players’ and spectators’ reentry.

Though only a few items appear to have been damaged due to the fire, Miller said it could have caused other problems that might not be observed for some time.

“The smoke being in the room for so long probably did some damage that we won’t see for two to three weeks or even until the summer,” he said. “But we’re pretty much back to normal.”

Because there is the possibility that more problems will present themselves in the future, Miller said he couldn’t specify on what the total cost of repairs will end up being. “Other than the air conditioning unit being destroyed, we don’t know the extent of the damage,” he said, explaining that some of the servers and network switches were likely affected as well.

Business and Finance Director Vern McAdams said the cost of the unit was about $15,000 three years ago and crews were at the school trying to rebuild it on Tuesday. Unsure of how much the district will end up paying for the repairs, McAdams said some hardware and expensive cameras, ranging from $3,000 to $4,000 apiece, were also ruined.

Once a list of the estimated damages is put together, McAdams said the district will be talking with its insurance company, as well as Rocky Mountain Power’s claims department. “We’re going to try all of our options,” he said.

In addition to a vague idea on the cost at this point, Miller said he doesn’t know what the timeline for repairs will be either. “The parts are coming in next week, but as far as how long it will take to install, I don’t know,” he said last Friday.

In the meantime, the district’s servers will be down between 5 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. every day, meaning that teachers, students and even parents will be affected.

“Grade books will be down for teachers,” Miller said, adding that parents seeking to check their student’s grades and attendance record will not be able to do so during those hours.

Everything else will be up and running as normal, Miller said. “The phones and critical systems … the surveillance cameras will still be working,” he explained.

Looking back on the event, Miller said things could have been a lot worse had he not decided to come in at that time.

“We probably would have seen a lot more server failure,” he noted, commenting on the irony of catching the fire at the right time. “It was kind of a happy accident that I showed up when I did.” And whether it was intuition or what have you, Miller said he had just stopped in to check on the situation.

“[I came by] to check on things … just in case something went bad with the power again,” he said. “It was just kind of fortuitous.”

And McAdams agrees that Miller’s catch prevented things from really getting out of hand.

“It could have been a lot worse,” he said. “It’s not too bad all in all.”

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