Fire Hits Unfinished Army Biodefense Lab

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Global Security Newswire Staff
Aug. 15, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

A two-alarm fire broke out on Wed­nes­day in a labor­at­ory fa­cil­ity un­der con­struc­tion at Fort De­t­rick, Md., the Fre­d­er­ick News-Post re­por­ted.

The fire, which was con­tained quickly, ap­peared to ori­gin­ate in a Biosafety Level 4 lab — an area that is be­ing pre­pared to handle highly tox­ic agents — gar­ris­on spokes­wo­man Lanessa Hill told the news­pa­per.

The build­ing, set to be com­pleted in 2014 and val­ued at $680 mil­lion, will be part of the U.S. Army Med­ic­al Re­search In­sti­tute of In­fec­tious Dis­eases. It will add more than 800,000 square feet of space to the re­search group’s fa­cil­it­ies, ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per.

At the com­plex, 17,000 feet of work­space is set to be used for Biosafety Level 4 labs and 34,000 feet will be de­voted to Biosafety Level 3 labs, where re­search can be done on bio­lo­gic­al agents such as an­thrax, ac­cord­ing to the News-Post.

The ex­tent of dam­age is not cur­rently known and no es­tim­ate was avail­able for the cost of dam­ages, the news­pa­per re­por­ted.

Last week, an in­spec­tion team from the CDC ex­amined newly con­struc­ted labs at Fort De­t­rick’s Na­tion­al In­sti­tute of Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Dis­eases’ In­teg­rated Re­search Fa­cil­ity for ap­prov­al of re­search with “se­lect agents” — highly tox­ic and con­trolled ma­ter­i­als with no known treat­ment op­tions. 

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