March 1, 2001

Ivy Blaze Leads to Added Precautions

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After an unexpected grill fire in the Ivy Room on Feb. 12, the Willard Straight Hall dining staff have worked to increase safety precautions to prevent a similar incident.

The grill fire began in the Ivy Room at approximately 11:15 a.m. in the short order grill section. The flames extended into the overhead ventilation system, causing the temporary closure of Willard Straight Hall dining facilities.

All students and staff in the building were safely evacuated, although some internal structures were damaged.

“We are getting a new five foot flat-top gas grill by this Friday,” said Eileen M. Hughes, executive chef of campus life dining.

The new grill will operate without open-flames, reducing the chances of having a similar grill fire.

The fusible link mechanisms attached to the sprinkler systems were proven to be faulty after the incident. The links, which are meant to melt when in contact with extreme heat and then release a fire-extinguishing chemical, were not working properly in the Ivy Room.

“The nature of the fire is still a stymie. I don’t know why it bypassed the internal system in the ductwork above, but the system did work at certain places. The sprinkler system did go off by the cashier,” Hughes said.

In addition to structural repair, the Willard Straight Dining staff have been retrained in safety procedures.

“We have been working with the staff to do more training in safety precautions. They are being trained and retrained,” said Nadeem Siddiqui, director of dining and retail services. “The situation has been rectified and there is nothing to worry about. If there is ever any danger to students or staff — who are our first priority — we will not function.”

Hughes stressed that ongoing training is always a priority. “Because of the nature of the fire, we did follow procedure. All the immediate staff were extremely supportive and are cooperative in the ongoing training procedures,” she said.

The Ivy Room and Okenshield’s reopened for dinner on the day of the fire.

“My staff worked in extreme conditions that day. We reopened for dinner that night and managed to feed over 16,000 people. I just want to thank my staff for an awesome job,” Hughes said.

Remembering the day of the fire, Siddiqui noted, “The students were great that day. They were very caring and were more concerned with the staff’s welfare. I guess that’s all just part of the Cornell attitude and experience.”

Archived article by Sai Pidatala