A 2 a.m. fire in the kitchen of the Omni’s John Davenport restaurant forced the evacuation of all 300 hotel guests Sunday, which included some 200 economists and the Jonathan Edwards College students dubbed the “Omni 15.”
The fire was extinguished in roughly 40 minutes and the guests were let back into their rooms without incident by 4 a.m. Two firefighters sustained minor injuries while fighting the fire, Lt. Herschel Wadley told the New Haven Independent. The precise cause of the fire has not yet been determined, though some have suggested a burst gas pipe.
“We are working with the New Haven Fire Department to determine how the fire started,” said Teresa Goldsmith, the Omni’s marketing director. “We and the Fire Department have a good idea, but we do not want to announce anything until we are certain.”
Repeated calls to the Fire Department went unanswered over the weekend and there was no official available for comment at headquarters on Sunday afternoon.
Simone Berkower ’09 said when flashing lights woke her up Friday morning, she was unsure whether the lights in her room were malfunctioning or if there she was in real danger.
She said she and the other JE students — who were staying at the hotel while their suites underwent renovation, but moved back to JE this weekend — waited until the alarm sound kicked in and announcements about the fire were made over the PA system before leaving the building.
“We were the first ones out, and then the other Yale people came, and then everybody else,” she said.
Ashley Tallevi ’09 said being awoken so suddenly was disorienting, but that the evacuation was otherwise smoothly conducted.
“People took their time getting out,” she said. “We took the stairs. There were really no problems.”
Once outside, both Tallevi and Berkower said, they could smell smoke, but at that point, there was nothing to do but wait for information.
Goldsmith said the hotel’s evacuation procedures worked “perfectly” and kept all the guests safe.
But since the fire caused a substantial amount of damage to the restaurant, the 19th-floor is now undergoing repairs and cleaning that Goldsmith said will be “extensive.”
She did not comment further on how much they would cost.
While the dining and bar areas were relatively unscathed, in the kitchen, the tiles along the ceiling were taken out and wires exposed and left hanging.
A sign outside the hotel reported that the restaurant will be “temporarily closed” and all guests received notices shortly after the fire that room service would be suspended until Tuesday.
Workers declined to comment on how long the repairs would take.
Though some have suggested a burst gas pipe, the precise cause of the fire has not yet been announced.
“We are working with the New Haven Fire Department to determine how the fire started,” Goldsmith said. “We and the Fire Department have a good idea, but we do not want to announce anything until we are certain.”
Goldsmith said there were workers in the kitchen at the time when the fire started. The fire was localized primarily in the duct above the kitchen, Wadley told the Independent.
“Anytime fire gets into the duct work, it can travel,” he said.