‘Freaking out.’ Dorm explosions have University of Nevada students on edge in Reno

A 19-year-old University of Nevada, Reno, student woke from a nap Friday afternoon in her campus dorm to the sound of fire alarms, The Reno Gazette Journal reported.

“A minute or two minutes later, the whole building just explodes,” Emma Spingler said, according to the publication. “The window just shatters, and there’s stuff flying off the roof. They just told us to run across the street.”

Two blasts rocked Argenta Hall about 1 p.m. Friday, a small one in a basement followed by a larger one after firefighters arrived, KUNR reported.

The explosions injured eight people, including two who were treated and released at a hospital, KRNV reported. Argenta Hall and nearby Nye Hall sustained significant damage and are closed.

Rescuers have finished searches in both dorms and found no fatalities, according to the station. No residents were in Nye Hall, which was closed at the time of the blasts.

The explosions are believed to have been caused by a “mechanical failure” at Argenta Hall, the university reported. The cause remains under investigation, but authorities do not suspect foul play.

The investigation has been hindered by flooding in the basement, where the dorm’s boilers are located, according to the university.

The university canceled classes Friday and temporarily moved Argenta Hall residents to another dorm, Peavine Hall, KRNV reported.

University officials are now seeking donations to aid displaced students, including Walmart gift cards, clothing, phone chargers, toiletries and non-perishable food, KOLO reported.

Some students fled Argenta Hall wearing only underwear, KUNR reported. University officials say they are trying to return necessary belongings to students who evacuated.

“Having to run away from an exploding building was something I never thought I would have to experience,” Spingler said, The Reno Gazette Journal reported. “I’m not really in the mental state to finish classes, so I don’t know how they expect me to do well without any of my stuff.”

Her roommate, 18-year-old Jordan Perea, had left for her shift at PetSmart 10 minutes before the explosions, according to the publication.

“I was just freaking out,” Perea said, The Reno Gazette Journal reported. “The whole time at work, I was on my phone or looking at the news.”

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.