A paper fire on the first floor of entryway C in Old Campus’ Bingham Hall set off fire alarms and prompted the building’s evacuation at approximately 6 p.m. on Sunday night.
A New Haven Fire Department lieutenant said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but New Haven police discovered ashes and burnt pieces of paper underneath the entryway’s circular stairwell on the first floor, as well as the word “Sparky” written on the underside of the stairs. Director of Custodial Services Bob Young said the fire did not cause significant damage to the building, but he said he considers it a case of arson and it will be investigated.
“It was a paper fire, so obviously someone set it,” Young said.
New Haven Police Department officials declined to comment on the investigation.
Brandon Fong ’09, who lives on the first floor of Bingham, said he did not see flames in the building last night, but he saw the entryway’s rotunda filled with smoke.
Phoebe Clarke ’09, who was in her third floor suite when the fire started, also said she saw smoke.
“I was coming out of the shower and smoke was billowing up from the first floor,” she said. “I didn’t see any suspicious behavior, though.”
Calhoun College Dean Stephen Lassonde said he had no knowledge of the cause of the building alarm, which houses freshmen from Calhoun and Trumbull colleges, though there had been enough smoke to attract the fire department. No injuries were caused by the smoke, he said.
Both the dean and master of Trumbull were unavailable for comment.
Students said they were unsure whether or not the painted word is linked to the fire.
Nate Clark ’09 said he had heard of the word’s appearance but could not determine how long the word had been there.
“There were ashes on the floor,” he said. “I’ve just never had a reason to look at the underside of the stairs before.”
Catherine Cobb ’09, who lives on the seventh floor, said she had heard about the appearance of the word ‘Sparky’ near the fire, and had not previously seen the word under the staircase.
Several Bingham C residents said they had noticed a similar burning smell late Saturday night in the rotunda. J.T. Kennedy ’09 and Amy Koenig ’09 both said that even though they had not seen any smoke in the hall the night before, they also detected the smell.
Students were allowed back in their Bingham rooms at approximately 6:45 pm.
Aki Nikolaidis ’09 said he saw police investigators taking pictures of signs saying “The Houn is on Fire” — Calhoun College’s trademark cheer — on Calhoun freshmen’s doors. Police also interviewed several Bingham residents last night, he said.