NO ONE WAS HURT IN FIRE AT UMW, BUT 159 DORM RESIDENTS DISPLACED
BY CATHY JETT
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Kelsey Carter said she "freaked out" when she learned Mason Hall at the University of Mary Washington had been evacuated Friday evening due to a fire.
Carter, a junior who lives on the third floor, was away for the weekend when she got the news. She said she worried that her things had suffered water damage when the small blaze was put out.
"Luckily my room was untouched because I live on the opposite side of the building from where the fire was," she said.
Still, Carter and most other Mason Hall residents won't be allowed to move back into the dorm until 9 a.m. Sunday at the earliest. While the building's sprinkler system is credited with helping douse the fire, it also soaked carpets and walls, and cleanup crews are trying to dry the place out.
The fire, which was confined to room 506, was caused when a coffee maker there malfunctioned, according to Deputy Chief Mike Jones of the Fredericksburg Fire Department.
No one was hurt, but university officials had to evacuate students from Mason and Randolph halls and the connecting residence area called The Link until the fire was doused.
Residents of Randolph and The Link were allowed to return to their rooms that night, but 159 students living in Mason had to relocate temporarily because of the wet conditions. Many were either away for the weekend or moved in with friends. Carter's roommate, Audrey McAvoy, for example, bunked with friends at Eagle Landing.
Only seven students needed assistance finding alternative housing, and they were housed on campus, according to Chris Porter, director for Residence Life.
Jones said that university police contacted Fredericksburg Emergency Communications at 7:18 p.m. Friday and said that a fire alarm was sounding in Mason, an upperclassman dorm that had been renovated in time for the fall semester. The call was upgraded to a structure fire when the smoke alarm activated. Responding firefighters didn't see any smoke outside the building, but smelled a burning odor as they approached the fifth floor, he said. They doused the fire just as heat from the blaze activated the sprinkler system.
"We got it shut down as soon as we could and assisted UMW in removing the water and then turned it over to them," Jones said in a press release.
Fire and rescue personnel also opened windows and turned on fans to get the smoke out of the building, and searched the building to make sure everyone had gotten out, he said.
The fire "was quickly controlled due in large part to the activation of the fire/smoke detection system that was improved following the recent renovations to that building," Jones said.
Restoration and cleanup crews worked through the night Friday and into Saturday to repair damage caused by the fire, UMW spokeswoman Marty Morrison said in a campus-wide email Saturday.
"The fire was contained to one room," she said. "No one was injured. Damages were sustained mostly by activation of the sprinkler system."
In an announcement late Saturday night, Morrison said that most students would be allowed to return to Mason on Sunday, but several rooms are still considered off-limits.
Tags: fire protection, dorm fire sprinkler mandate, school fire protection, university fire protection, residence hall sprinklers