Keck Observatory II Evacuated Following Smoke Alarm Sound

W. M. Keck Observatory was evacuated on Wednesday following a smoke alarm that went off in the Keck II control room.

Officials with observatory say the fire-suppression system was activated within the building at around 3 p.m., in an area separate from the dome where the Keck II telescope is housed.

“Our summit crew reported smoke, but no visible flames,” Rich Matsuda, Keck Observatory Chief of Operations said in a written statement. “We take the safety of our employees very seriously, and following standard protocol we immediately evacuated the facility.”

In total about 17 summit crew members were actively working when the incident occurred. No was reportedly injured of in physical danger.

Emergency services were notified and Office of Mauna Kea Management Rangers and the Pohakuloa Fire Department, which is the closest to the Maunakea Observatories, responded to the scene.

In addition, the Hawai`i County Fire Department and  Hawai`i Police Department also responded.

Keck Observatory officials say that by around 5 p.m., Pohakuloa Fire assessed that it was safe to re-enter the building.

Preliminary assessments show that it appears the smoke may have been due to an electrical issue with the air conditioning unit in the control room.

No hazardous chemicals or materials were involved.  There is no apparent damage to the facility other than the air-conditioning unit.