Cigarette sparks fire in Branford

At 7:11 p.m. Thursday, firefighters were called to Branford College to put out a fire.
At 7:11 p.m. Thursday, firefighters were called to Branford College to put out a fire. Photo by Marcus Schwarz.

A cigarette in a garbage can started a fire on the first floor of Branford College entryway G around 7 p.m. Thursday evening, according to a firefighter at the scene. No one was injured, and damage was isolated to the one suite and the basement below it.

The blaze began in the trash can but caught the side of a wooden television stand and then burned part of the TV, a firefighter who responded the blaze said. Fire sprinklers activated automatically, and students pulled a fire alarm and called the Yale Police, Casey Verkamp ’10 said. Students said fire alarms in Branford started going off around 7:11 p.m.

Water from overhead sprinklers flooded the Branford College laundry room after a fire Thursday night.
Water from overhead sprinklers flooded the Branford College laundry room after a fire Thursday night.
New Haven firefighters wait outside Branford College on York Street shortly after being notified about a fire Thursday evening.
New Haven firefighters wait outside Branford College on York Street shortly after being notified about a fire Thursday evening.

Verkamp, who lives on the third floor of entryway G, said she was in her room when her suitemate told her they should leave because she smelled smoke. Verkamp went out to the courtyard and heard a smoke alarm going off, she said. She then saw flames through the first-floor suite’s window. The common room was filled with smoke, Verkamp said, and she called the police while other students pulled the fire alarm.

At least five New Haven Fire Department trucks arrived at the scene within minutes.

The four students who live in the suite were taken, one at a time, into a Fire Investigation Unit truck by police and fire officials about an hour after the fire alarm first sounded. No arrests were made, and three of the students who live in the suite returned to Branford’s Linonia Court around 10 p.m., where they collected their belongings from their bedrooms, which were not damaged by the blaze.

The students in the suite will not be allowed to sleep there for two to three days, Branford Master Steven Smith said. All four students in the suite declined to comment.

Smith added that any disciplinary action would be handled by the University, not him, and that an official fire report will be released.

Security Director Martha Highsmith could not be reached for comment, and YPD and NHFD officials said they could not comment on an ongoing investigation.

The New Haven Fire Department and the Yale Office of Environmental Health and Safety officials surveyed damage to the affected suite.

What looked like the remains of the trash can lay in the middle of the suite, severely charred. Fire damage marked the TV stand, radiator covers and one of the walls. Sprinklers flooded the basement below the suite.

Branford students standing on the walkway between Branford and Jonathan Edwards colleges said they had left their rooms after hearing a fire alarm and had been told by the police to leave their courtyard.

Bea Koch ’12 stood outside in just a towel and flip-flops. The alarm had gone off while she was in the middle of a shower, she said.

“I literally always think I’m going to get locked out and be standing in the hallway in a towel,” Koch said. “Now I’m standing in front of my college in a towel.”

Colin Ross contributed reporting.

Comments

  • Not a Libertarian

    And this, dear people, is yet another way how a supposedly “private” addiction has real, public consequences.

  • Branford ’10

    It’s not enough that smokers blow toxic fumes in my face. Now they have to catch fire to my college.

  • yale 2008

    @#1,

    And the court system is properly constructed to resolve the resulting liability.

    This is why insurance exists.

    It’s not that hard.

    But if your goal isn’t free exchange and association, then I suppose using the bludgeoning power of the government would be wonderful in your eyes.

    grow up kid

  • haha

    hipsters…

  • dumbbastards

    how can that dude in G look himself in the mirror? transfer before your stupidity infects us all

  • @ #3

    “Insurance?”

    You think…INSURANCE could replace Branford?

    There is not money enough–or talent–extant in the world to recover what would be lost were Branford to go down in flames.

    Grow up kid.

  • Branford ’00

    As “Yale 2008″ @3 illustrates, it’s possible to get through four years of Yale with your ignorance and libertarian ideology remarkably intact.

    But for the sake of the rest of us: Please don’t smoke in the dorm. Just don’t.

    If you do, you are imposing large and unnecessary externalities on the rest of us that cannot be magically fixed through either “insurance” or “the court system” — both in terms of secondhand smoke, and (to a lesser extent) in terms of fire risk. Just don’t do it. Please. Thanks.

  • ROFLCOPTER

    Ah, the way cigarettes really hurt the rest of us is… fires that threaten to burn down Branford.

    Got it.

  • Yale 2008

    Yes, insurance.

    Branford is undoubtedly insured for millions of dollars. The resulting settlement in event of loss would pay for the entire cost to rebuild.

    But no, according to my liberal Yale friends, insurance is only something evil capitalist invent to steal from sick people.

    And if anything, Yale HARDENED my libertarian bent. Seeing tons of spoiled brats and clueless bleeding hearts fail to understand individual responsibility does that to a girl.

  • BR 2010

    Hang on, Yale 2008, hang on…you’re arguing that it’s okay for people to smoke in dorms because insurance can pay for Branford to be rebuilt (lives and safety are no biggie, apparently), and then you invoke individual responsibility?

    Seriously?

  • Yale 2008

    Read carefully

    My initial comment was in response to a poster who suggested via his/her tone that a heavier sort of governance was needed to squelch these incidents.

    My responses have attempted to show that this is not necessary.

    I also wonder how previous classes of Yalies managed to smoke cigars, burn candles, use gas lamps, etc. without destroying all of New Haven.

    But I guess that perspective gets lost when we must all agree that cigarettes are evilllllll.

  • Ciggies

    Cigarettes? Evil? Hardly.

    Burning down Branford (and wetting expensive electronics, inducing mold, and generally inconveniencing a not small population? Yeah, that would be evil.

    Oh, and the “residents” are not the owners: Yale can, indeed, set what rules it will in its colleges, even banning (eek!) smoking.

  • Old Blue ’7

    “I also wonder how previous classes of Yalies managed to smoke cigars, burn candles, use gas lamps, etc. without destroying all of New Haven.”

    Or even part of Branford. BTW, you left out cannabis doobies and incense.

    It’s not the product that’s the problem with fires, it’s the user. A daughter’s friend’s hair curler, left on and in bedspreads, cause a small fire at U.Va. a few years ago.

    A smoking ban makes sense in dorms because many/most find it noxious.

  • GossipSquirrelbr