ROLLA, Mo. — Classes at a Missouri college were interrupted Thursday by smoke and flames.

The fire broke out on Missouri S&T’s campus in Rolla just after noon.

Flames took over a cooling tower on the roof of Emerson Hall.

It was a very unpleasant surprise for Missouri S&T to have to deal with the last week before finals.

Smoke and flames took over– forcing an evacuation of the building and causing a big scare for students and staff.

“I saw dark smoke coming,” said Missouri S&T Professor BJ Shrestha.  “There were flames– it was frightening.”

Firefighters were left to battle the blaze.

“There was a lot of smoke billowing,” said Marketing and Communications Director for Missouri S&T Andrew Careaga.  “That cooling tower contained a lot of fiber glass– which holds a lot of heat and was burning.”

“The cooling tower has been winterized,” said Rolla Fire Chief Ron Smith.  “Obviously, it’s used during the summer months.  It was turned off– but had power to it at the time.”

“I smelled the smoke,” said Shrestha.  “And had to leave my office in a hurry.”

Students and teachers were left to flee the building being overtaken by flames.

“I saw the fire truck very fast coming to campus,” said Shrestha.  “I grabbed my keys and had to leave other things on my desk.”

“We responded with two fire apparatus and seven people,” said Smith.  “To achieve what we did is outstanding for our personnel– but we also used other agencies and mutual aid to overcome that challenge.”

Which was an even bigger challenge on a chilly day like today– but crews managed to contain the fire within just a few hours– keeping everyone safe.

“I’ve been here many, many years– and this is the first time it’s happened on the campus,” said Shrestha.  “I’m grateful to the hardworking firefighters and law enforcement.”

The Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating– which could take a few weeks.

The building will remain closed Friday and through the weekend.

Missouri S&T is working on rescheduling classes and will be sending out information to the campus community.

Luckily, no one was injured in the fire and everyone made it out safely.