Broward County

Explosion, fire shake Cleveland Clinic in Weston

mbarrow@MiamiHerald.com

Smoke streams from the Cleveland Clinic facility in Weston on Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Neighbors reported hearing and feeling an explosion.
Smoke streams from the Cleveland Clinic facility in Weston on Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Neighbors reported hearing and feeling an explosion. Courtesy of Scarlett Ureta

An explosion and two-alarm fire at the Cleveland Clinic facility in Weston led to a partial evacuation of the area Friday afternoon.

The city of Weston tweeted just after 1:30 p.m. that firefighters had extinguished the blaze, which broke out on a low roof adjacent to the clinic’s $90 million neurological center, due to open later this month. There were no injuries.

“It was a very impressive fire. You could see it from miles away on the interstate,” said Mike Jachles, spokesman for the Broward Sheriff’s Office. The fire, first reported at 12:41 p.m., was contained in about 25 minutes.

Neighbors took to social media. They reported feeling buildings shake and posted photos of thick black plumes of smoke emanating from the campus, one of six the medical center has in Florida.

Cary Kingsberg was in a hospital room nearby with his son, 18-year-old Cole, when he heard the boom.

“I was just sitting there ... and I thought a bomb went off,” the elder Kingsberg said. “Then I saw really thick, dark smoke.”

Two construction workers on the scene speculated that the blast was caused by tar falling onto a propane tank. They said they were among the 40 to 50 people inside the building when a warning was sounded.

“The general contractor told us to get out of the building,” worker Antony Mendoza said, and the crews rushed outside. They then witnessed the explosion: “It was crazy.”

Jachles, the Broward spokesman, acknowledged that a 100-pound propane tank was being used in building at the time, and its exact role was being investigated.

Brandon Hull, an EEG tech, was working in the Cleveland Clinic’s fourth-floor neurological center when the code red was called. He said hospital staff sprung into action.

“We heard there was a code red, so we were shutting the doors, walking around making sure the patients were safe,” Hull said. “Then we heard a big explosion, and the building shook.”

Hull and others were then told to evacuate.

They gathered in front of the hospital’s main entrance, where he saw smoke and fire.

“I was pretty nervous after the explosion, but not too bad because I knew where it was, and they said it was contained,” he said.

After about half an hour, Hull was back to work.

He said the patients, some of whom were watching the news, were relaxed.

The Kingsbergs say their building, next door to the new neurological center, was put on lockdown — but they hadn’t heard any further word from hospital officials about safety procedures.

Cole Kingsberg had a view of the site from his window and began snapping photos and video.

“I was just taking a nap,” he said, “and the whole building shook.”

The Cleveland Clinic issued a statement: “A construction-related fire occurred on the roof top of a one-story annex building under construction in Weston. ... As a precaution, we evacuated our outpatient clinic building located nearby for approximately one hour. Normal operations have resumed in the outpatient clinic. We appreciate the quick response of the Weston Fire Department.”

Weston Road southbound from Royal Palm Boulevard was blocked during the afternoon. Entrances to the hospital itself are open.

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