The Office of Planning and Facilities Management initiated an investigation into the cause of a fire that occurred in a Henle Village apartment Feb. 8.
All five residents were in the apartment when the fire began early Saturday morning but none were harmed. The cause of the fire is currently unknown and a commissioned team is investigating the fire, according to a university spokesperson.
The fire had already generated smoke before the residents were able to evacuate the building, according to Conor Nicholson (MSB ’22), one of the residents of the apartment where the fire started.
“I couldn’t see past three feet in front of me there was so much smoke,” Nicholson said. “I didn’t really think — I just ran outside.”
D.C. Fire and Emergency Services Department and Georgetown University Police Department evacuated some students living in Henle in response to the fire alarm. Most students were able to return to their apartments by 5:20 a.m., and residents of impacted apartments were relocated to area hotels, according to the spokesperson.
Matteo Palacardo (MSB ’22), one of the residents in the affected apartment, was relieved he and his roommates were able to evacuate in time.
“It was a terrifying experience, and I’m just really glad we managed to get everyone out safe,” Palacardo wrote in a statement to The Hoya.
Commissioners are currently working to repair the fire-damaged apartments, according to a university spokesperson.
“A fire response team of internal services and external consultants are working to investigate the cause of the fire and remedy any impacts to the affected apartments,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Last spring students living on campus were relocated to the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center following structural roof issues due to moisture buildup. Eighty-five students living in Alumni Square last spring semester were moved to the facility for the remainder of the semester.
The Office of Facilities Operations in conjunction with GUPD instituted a fire watch starting Feb. 12 in light of the recent fire and concerns about student safety in Henle, according to a Feb. 12 email sent to all Henle residents from Director of Residential Services Bill Huff.
“GU police officers will be walking around Henle Village checking stairwells and exterior of the buildings for fire or smoke throughout the evening,” Huff wrote in the email. “The fire watch has been instituted to ensure that all residential units within Henle Village are providing the highest level of safety and protection.”
The watch comes after other campus fires this year, such as the recent fire in Healy Hall on Jan. 5. The Office of Planning and Facilities Management investigated the fire, which broke out in a private office in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics in Healy Hall and was extinguished by the building’s sprinkler system.
Smoke from a mechanical failure triggered a fire alarm in Healy in February 2019. The alarm led to a complete evacuation of the building. D.C. Fire and EMS determined the smoke resulted from a defective fan belt on a heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit instead of from a fire.
In addition to the fire watch, the Office of Facilities Operations will test fire alarms to ensure that the system is functioning properly, according to Huff.
“This precaution is not a cause for concern; the fire alarm system is going through a testing process to be certain it is operating at full efficiency,” Huff wrote. “Beginning this evening, Facilities Operations and Siemens staff is testing each of the smoke detection devices within the units to be certain of their operation.”