UMW dorm fire displaces students
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BY CATHY JETT
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Kelsey Carter said she “freaked out” when she learned Mason Hall at the University of Mary Washington had been evacuated Friday evening due to a fire.
Carter, a junior who lives on the third floor, was away for the weekend when she got the news. She said she worried that her things had suffered water damage when the small blaze was put out.
“Luckily my room was untouched because I live on the opposite side of the building from where the fire was,” she said.
The fire, which was confined to one room, was caused by a malfunctioning Keurig-type coffee maker in room 506, according to Deputy Chief Mike Jones of the Fredericksburg Fire Department.
No one was hurt by the fire, but university officials had to evacuate students from Mason and Randolph halls and the connecting residence area called The Link until it was doused.
Residents of Randolph and The Link were allowed to return to their rooms that night, but 159 students living in Mason had to relocate temporarily because of the wet conditions caused by the sprinkler system. Many were either away for the weekend or moved in with friends. Carter’s roommate, Audrey McAvoy, for example, bunked with friends at Eagle Landing.
Only seven students needed assistance in finding alternative housing, and those were housed on campus, according to Chris Porter, director for Residence Life.
Jones said that university police contacted Fredericksburg Emergency Communications at 7:18 p.m. Friday and said that a fire alarm was sounding in Mason, an upperclassman dorm that had been renovated in time for the fall semester. The call was upgraded to a structure fire when the smoke alarm activated.
Personnel from the Fredericksburg Fire Department and one unit from Stafford County Fire and Rescue responded. They did not see any fire from the exterior of the building, but smelled a burning odor as they got to the fifth floor, he said.
Firefighters hooked up a fire hose to the dorm’s standpipe system and doused the fire just as heat from the blaze activated the sprinkler system.
“We got it shut down as soon as we could and assisted UMW in removing the water and then turned it over to them,” Jones said in a press release.
Fire and rescue personnel also opened several windows and turned on fans to get the smoke out of the building, and searched the building to make sure everyone had gotten out, he said.
The fire “was quickly controlled due in large part to the activation of the fire/smoke detection system that was improved following the recent renovations to that building,” Jones said.
The Fredericksburg fire marshal investigated the fire and determined it originated with a coffee maker that was sitting on top of a small refrigerator, he said. The students living in the room were not there at the time.
“The cause was accidental and is not considered suspicious,” according to Jones.
Restoration and cleanup crews worked through the night Friday to clean up and repair damage caused by the fire, UMW spokeswoman Marty Morrison said in a campus-wide email on Saturday.
“The fire was contained to one room,” she said. “No one was injured. Damages were sustained mostly by activation of the sprinkler system.”
It’s unclear when students will be allowed to move back into Mason. Another announcement from UMW is expected around 9 tonight.
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407
Here’s the latest info from UMW:
The number of students affected by the fire in Mason Hall Friday night is 159. Most stayed with friends or family overnight. Only seven students needed assistance in finding alternative housing, and those were housed on campus,according to Chris Porter, director for Residence Life.
At this time, Porter said that rooms are still being assessed. She hopes to have another update about 9 p.m.
Here’s the latest official release from the University of Mary Washington:
“Restoration and cleanup crews worked through the night to resolve damage created by the fire in Mason Hall. The fire was contained to one room. No one was injured. Damages were sustained mostly by activation of the sprinkler system. The emergency operation team also worked through the night to assess the situation and assisted students as needed. A meeting to update the affected students was held at 9 a.m. Saturday. Those students are being allowed to access the building until 11 a.m. to retrieve personal belongings but will not be able to remain in the building Saturday and Saturday night while restoration continues. Alternate housing has been provided for students who required it. Special arrangements are being made for athletes who are unable to enter Mason Hall during the allotted time. Continued updates will be made on the UMW website and via student email. The next update will be made at 5 p.m. today.”
Fire broke out at a newly renovated dorm building at the University of Mary Washington last night, displacing students who had been living there.
No one was injured in the blaze at Mason Hall, according to a release from UMW. The fire was contained to one room, said Natatia Bledsoe, spokesperson for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
“Although we are dealing with some damage to the facility and the temporary displacement of Mason students, we are thankful all of our systems worked appropriately, students exited the building, emergency crews responded, and everyone is safe,” Vice President of Student Affairs Doug Searcy said in a statement.
“We appreciate the patience of our students and their extended families as we work through this situation and provide ongoing support.”
For information on housing status or students, please call 540/654-1058.
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