Audrey Steinkamp

A fire broke out in the the Pauli Murray College dining hall kitchen at around 8:15 a.m. on Wednesday, forcing diners and staff to evacuate and the dining hall to close temporarily.

The fire alarm blared across Murray’s first-year courtyard from the dining hall to adjacent entryway A. While the source of the fire remains unknown, the incident was minor and the flames did not carry from the kitchen into the dining room, according to Christian Fischer, senior director of Yale Dining. He said that a dining hall staff member activated the sprinkler system as a precautionary measure, triggering a call to the fire department.

“Safety is our number one concern and our staff is trained to deal with these types of minor incidents,” Fischer said. “Small nonalarm issues happen from time to time in commercial kitchens, and this fire, minor in nature, did not activate the alarm.”

In 2017, there were 16 fire incidents recorded in the residential colleges, including one in Murray, according to the 2017 Yale University Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. According to a member of the Murray dining staff who asked for anonymity for fear of retribution from his boss, Wednesday morning’s incident was the first time a fire has broken out in the Murray kitchen. He speculated that the flames were fueled by grease that was sparked behind the serving counter in the kitchen. The staff member contended that the whole team worked together to “take care of it” and that he was thankful that everyone was okay.

Lillie Horton ’22, one of just a few dozen students eating breakfast when the fire broke out, said she admired that everyone managed to stay calm.

“A worker ran out and screamed, ‘There’s a fire behind the skillet!’” said Horton. “You couldn’t see anything — or at least I couldn’t — but they turned on the sprinklers and [everyone] walked out really calmly.”

Horton, along with classmates Danny Kaplowitz ’22 and Carla Sanchez-Noya ’22, explained that this was not the first time the fire alarm had gone off in their courtyard. On separate occasions the three have been urged to evacuate entryways A and B for non-emergency reasons.

As a result, Kaplowitz was not worried by the ringing, as he assumed it was another false alarm. Still, both he and Sanchez-Noya evacuated their entryway.

Eight students interviewed by the News said that the fire was purely a minor inconvenience. Every member of Murray received an email about an hour after the event, explaining that the dining hall would be closed for breakfast “due to unforeseen circumstances.” Lunch and dinner options were also limited, as the grille and pizza stations remained closed.

“I stayed up really late studying for a quiz expecting to be able to sleep in,” Kaplowitz said. “The fire alarm really messed up my morning.”

In any fire emergency on campus, the Office of the Fire Marshal requires that bystanders call 911.

Audrey Steinkamp |