On New North's first floor, a facilities employee works to clear the scene of debris as MPD officers survey the water damage.
On New North’s first floor, a facilities employee works to clear the scene of debris as MPD officers survey the water damage.

Two facilities workers injured by a fire that broke out shortly before 3 a.m. Thursday morning in a second-floor New North office are in stable condition at the burn center of the Washington Hospital Center.

The fire, which D.C. Deputy Fire Chief Kenneth Crosswhite said was called in at 2:43 a.m., first began when the employees were using a floor-stripping machine, according to Spiros Dimolitsas, senior vice president and chief administrative officer of the university.

The alert triggered a D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services response, consisting of five engine companies, two ladder trucks, a rescue squad, two battalion fire chiefs and an EMS unit, according to Crosswhite. The sprinkler system in the building functioned properly and extinguished the fire, Dimolitsas said in an e-mail sent to the Georgetown community earlier Thursday afternoon. As of press time, the D.C. Fire Department was continuing its investigation into the cause of the incident.

The two facilities workers were not the only individuals injured as a result of the fire.

“Additionally, two DPS officers suffered smoke inhalation during their response efforts and were transported by GERMS to Georgetown University Hospital, where they were treated and released,” Dimolitsas said.

Lt. Eric Hayes of the Metropolitan Police Department said early Thursday morning that both facilities workers incurred first-degree burns on their arms and legs, but Dimolitsas said in his e-mail later in the day that the injuries were not life threatening.

University President John J. DeGioia took a moment to address the fire and resulting injuries before he announced the appointment of Cleveland State University Athletic Director Lee Reed to the athletic director spot at Georgetown in a press conference.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our two colleagues who were injured last evening in the fire in New North, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers as we move forward in this day,” DeGioia said Thursday morning.

Dimolitsas spoke of the damage and the immediate university response in his e-mail.

“There is some water damage in the building. Cleaning crews from facilities and a water damage restoration company are working to restore the damaged spaces as soon as possible,” he said.

Cleanup efforts were ongoing as of late Thursday afternoon, with about 50 air vacuums in use or in storage on the second floor of the building, which houses the philosophy department. Though carpeting was damp, no more standing water remained on the second floor, which had collected about one centimeter of water soon after 3 a.m. Thursday, or the first floor, which had about two inches of water in certain areas at the same time. Leakage also occurred in the ground floor music room, where carpets later dried.

Early on Thursday, portions of the first-floor ceiling had fallen to the ground and water dripped from recessed lighting. Outside, water coming from an open window on the first floor descended along the north side of the building facing Harbin Hall. Water also seeped through the overhang of the tunnel that runs under New North.

According to Director of Media Relations Andy Pino and an MPD officer at the scene, the fire broke out in room 221, the office of philosophy professor James Mattingly, who described the space as “completely unusable” in an e-mail sent early Thursday afternoon. As of press time, the office’s carpet was the only one on the second floor that damage-control teams had stripped entirely.

Dimolitsas expanded on the university response in his e-mail.

“We are also working with the Offices of the Provost and Registrar to accommodate faculty, staff and classroom space impacted by the fire and water damage. Faculty will notify students via e-mail if their class needs to relocate to a new room,” Dimolitsas said.

Philosophy Department Chair Wayne Davis e-mailed the department’s faculty at 8:25 a.m. the morning of the fire informing them of the incident and the injuries. Davis, who was the first faculty member to arrive in New North at 7:45 a.m. Thursday, said concerns about mold have cropped up.

“Our main worry is mold, necessitating replacement of carpets and maybe wallboards,” Davis said.

The office of philosophy professor Fr. Mark Henninger, S.J., remained relatively unscathed because of its raised wooden floor, while carpeted offices nearby experienced extensive water damage.

According to Henninger, both he and professor Dennis Bradley held classes in the second-floor conference room Thursday despite the wetness. “The carpet was a bit moist, but everyone rolled with it pretty well and we just had our usual class,” he said.

Dimolitsas said recovery efforts would continue in the days to come.

“We will be working to identify and recover any damaged equipment or materials. We are working with everyone who has been displaced by the fire, and we thank them for their patience as we complete this work,” Dimolitsas said.

Introducing DeGioia this morning at the press conference announcing Reed’s appointment, Senior Vice President for Strategic Development and outgoing interim Athletic Director Daniel Porterfield also expressed his gratitude to those who arrived to the scene and continued efforts at restoration.

“I’d like to begin by expressing my thanks to all who are responding to the fire and to the needs of the employees who were injured,” Porterfield said.

Hoya Staff Writer Kevin Barber contributed to this report.

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