Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GU Responds to Fire in New South

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A Munters truck parked outside New South Hall provided dryers to maintenance crews, who tried to clean up the damage on Monday. Click for more photos.

*Updated at 7:27 a.m., December 8*

Cleanup and restoration efforts are underway in New South Hall in response to a fire that broke out Sunday night at about 6:45 p.m. on the third floor of the freshman residence hall.

In an e-mail to New South residents Monday, Stephanie Lynch, director of the Office of Residence Life, informed students of progress in repairing fire damage and water damage from the sprinkler system in the building.

“Beginning last night, staff from Facilities and Housekeeping were responding to the scene and providing cleanup efforts including water extraction from the carpet,” the e-mail said. “The university has contacted Munters, a fire and water cleanup restoration company and they were on site last night to begin cleanup efforts.”

The e-mail continued by stating that over the next several days, various university offices and Munters will continue to work to restore New South to normal condition. Students were warned that they would see a large tube in the building and on the third floor, which would work to dehumidify the air and pull moisture out of the water-damaged rooms.

In the e-mail, Lynch assured students that the equipment would not be harmful to students living nearby. She said residents of the third floor should drink more water, however, because the humidity on the floor will be low.

Students in the 23 rooms damaged by the fire and sprinklers were asked in an e-mail from Lynch to remove valuables from their rooms, and were told that their GOCards would be credited $50 to help offset the cost of cleaning damaged items.

These students were encouraged in the e-mail to pack clothes and other supplies for five to seven days, although they will be able to access their rooms between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. each night. Students will receive temporary housing assignments until their rooms in New South are inhabitable.

At 10 p.m. Sunday at an informational meeting held in Sellinger Lounge for New South residents, Lynch and Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs, announced the list of 23 rooms affected by water damage from the sprinkler system. Residents from these rooms were escorted to New South to collect their personal belongings before moving to alternate residences Sunday night.

D.C. Fire Department spokesperson Pete Piringer said fire damage was “minimal” and that no injuries had been reported. According to Piringer, the New South sprinkler system controlled the fire and prevented any injuries, despite collateral damage.

Piringer said that a fire can double in size every minute when sprinklers are not activated.

“When we arrived on the scene, the building was being evacuated, and there was an alarm sounding,” Piringer said. “The lobby area was clear and then a few minutes later, firefighters found a little bit of smoke on the third floor and some water, which usually indicates sprinkler activation.”

Piringer confirmed that the fire was electrical, and likely a result of an overloaded power strip.

Kelley Kidd (SFS ’13) and Stephanie LaGumina (COL ’13) reside in room 321, in which the fire originated.

Kidd said that initially she did not know the fire was in her room until her resident assistant, Mollie Schmitz (COL ’10), suggested the possibility.

“I was in my neighbors’ room, and we heard some kind of bang. I don’t know if that was related or not. But about a minute later we heard a quiet fire alarm. And everyone started poking their heads out into the hall,” she said.

“The fire was on my desk,” Kidd said.

Kidd added that the damage to her room was substantial.

“The floor is drenched,” she said after she had returned to her room to collect her belongings on Sunday night. “There’s mostly smoke damage, not a whole lot of fire damage. The biggest problem is the flooding.”

cCarthy Hall Director Jessica Buckley, the on-duty hall director Sunday night, was unable to confirm that all sprinklers on the third floor had been triggered when the fire broke out.

Following the fire, RAs in New South assessed the damage in each room before allowing students to return, according to Buckley and Rocco DelMonaco, vice president for university safety.

According to Lynch and Olson, three rooms on the second floor and eight rooms on the third floor had wet carpeting, and 12 rooms on the third floor contained standing water.

At the informational meeting in Sellinger Lounge, the Office of Student Affairs and Residence Life provided New South residents with pizza and several tubs of ice cream purchased at Vital Vittles. The Corp also provided water and soft drinks.

University President John J. DeGioia addressed students gathered in Sellinger Lounge at about 10:30 p.m. and greeted residents who were waiting to return to New South.

At 11 p.m. Buckley announced that residents from the first, second and fourth floors could return to their rooms, but third floor residents were not told they could return to New South until 11:38 p.m.

Third floor resident Paul Connor (COL ’13) said Sunday night’s fire has been problematic.

“I’m not going to lie,” Connor said. “It’s pretty gnarly up here. Although I have to keep my inhaler holstered 24/7 now, I’m still too grateful that my room survived to really be bothered by the noise and the dryness. Plus it’s definitely nice to be dry from your shower by the time you get to your door.”

New South resident Katie Steefel (SFS ’13) said the fire has been more irritating than anything else.

“There [haven’t] been any major consequences,” Steefel said. “It’s been more annoyances like not being able to shower on our floor, hearing the cleaning crew during the day and night and just the general commotion on the floor.”

Third floor RA Schmitz and New South Hall Director Alberto Lorenzo declined to comment.

Nathalie Lawyer contributed to this report.”

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