A small fire broke out in a student dorm room in Pauli Murray College Monday afternoon, with subsequent water damage affecting the buttery, the college’s student meeting room, the dining hall loading dock and two student suites. No students, faculty or staff members were injured.
The fire — which began from a lit candle — broke out in Entryway E around 2:50 p.m. Alarms sounded throughout the college as the sprinkler system put out the fire before firefighters entered the building. The water in the suite, which was on the second floor, leaked down into the suite below it and then into the elevator shaft, causing damage in the basement.
Head of College Tina Lu sent out an email to Pauli Murray students approximately two hours later, explaining that nobody was hurt and informing students about the damage. She also emphasized the rule against candles in undergraduate dorm rooms.
“Candles are dangerous,” Lu told the News. “And the takeaway is that the undergraduate regulations, that particular one, is there for a very good reason. We all grew up with candles, but in this communal living environment, they’re dangerous, and they caused a lot of damage.”
Lu did not specifically elaborate on how the fire started, citing that she wanted to protect the privacy of the student. However, she did mention the danger of having a candle lit with the window open on a windy day, as wind can carry the fire.
She said that while she was not on campus when the fire broke out, she returned when the firemen arrived and later did a walkthrough of the college with the fire marshal to survey the damage. Excluding the student’s suite, all of the damage to the college is water-related, and the facilities staff have already begun repairing the college’s property.
“All [the repairs] are taking place right now, but in a building that is this complicated, it’s a bunch of different moving parts,” Lu said. “We are working hard to make sure that it’s as fast as possible.”
Casey Ramsey ’20, who lives in the suite below the room in which the fire started, told the News that he and his suitemate have been temporarily relocated to a different entryway due to water damage. None of their items were damaged, but there is a crack in their ceiling that was leaking water, he explained. Firefighters discovered an inch of water in the walls of the hallway outside their room, according to Ramsey.
Ramsey was in his room at the time of the fire but said he did not think that the alarm was serious. He only left when his friend texted him that the fire was directly above him, he said. After the fire was extinguished, firemen and the fire marshal examined his suite and decided that he should move as a precaution so that adequate repairs could be made.
“It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s not unpleasant,” Ramsey said. “At least we got to stay in Murray, and we got to keep our own rooms and have our own space still, and it’s not too far.”
Shira Minsk ’23 lives in the same hallway as Ramsey, but her suite did not suffer any water damage. However, there was a small leak in the hallway outside her room, which had stopped by Tuesday morning.
Minsk, like Ramsey, was in her room at the time of the fire. She recalls at least two other times this year that the fire alarm has gone off in her entryway, both of which turned out to be false alarms or fire drills. So, when she heard the alarm this time, she said she put in her headphones and continued to study. She added that she only left the building when one of her friends who lives down the hall informed her that there were firefighters coming. Once outside, she saw smoke coming out of a second-floor window and then saw water from the sprinklers.
“I totally think it could have happened to anyone … Lots of people I know in Murray light candles,” Minsk said.
Pauli Murray College is located at 130 Prospect Street.
Amelia Davidson | firstname.lastname@example.org