Fire marshal warns of shutting down the Pit

The New Mexico-Longwood game on Dec. 17 was delayed by 24 minutes when a fire alarm went off in the second half, and the fans and teams needed to evacuate the newly renovated Pit.

The school said excess smoke in the kitchen set off the alarm and that the "system in place worked exactly as it was intended to. " Most people simply cared that the Lobos eventually won by 37 in their building, which got a $60 million facelift.

"What we learned tonight, we should have pulled the fire alarm a little quicker," coach Steve Alford joked after the game. "After the fire alarm, we were pretty good."

But fire marshal John Standefer is concerned enough about the arena's fire evacuation system that the Albuquerque Journal is reporting the school might have to find an alternate venue for games if it can't comply with safety requirements by its self-imposed Jan. 31 deadline.

"We thought we were being very reasonable in allowing them to open the building this year with additional restrictions in place," Standefer said. "The restrictions we put in place were not that difficult, and they failed miserably."

While fire alarms and water sprinklers were installed when the renovated Pit was opened in November, UNM had not completed the system designed to clear smoke from the arena concourse.

The state Public Regulation Commission allowed UNM to open the Pit, with the condition that concession cooking areas each have a guard on fire watch.

But after finding that those UNM fire guards were either absent or asleep on the job during games this season, Standefer said he has had enough.

The fire marshal has now banned cooking while fans are inside, meaning limited concessions. He told KRQE-TV that cheerleaders were even seen doing crowd control at a recent event in a violation of safety codes.

Mainly, Standefer simply wants a ventilation system installed that will help get people out of the building quickly in case of an emergency.

Safety first, right?