January 30, 2003

Fireplace 'Flue-ke' Forces WSH Evacuation

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A small chimney fire at 12:46 p.m. yesterday forced the evacuation of Willard Straight Hall during the lunch rush.

Exiting diners then joined an anti-war protest already in progress outside.

While initial police reports shared little information, a fire department spokesperson confirmed that the fire could have been caused by the failure to open the flue on the fireplace.

First Reports

Linda Grace-Kobas, director of the Cornell News Service, said that the police report initially labeled the alarm “accidental.”

“They didn’t have any commentary on the cause,” she said.

“I was eating lunch,” Kevin Fink ’06 said. “Someone had tried to light a fire but hadn’t opened the flue and there was a lot of smoke in the room.”

Outside, on Ho Plaza, a group of students were holding an anti-war protest. Many diners evacuating from the building joined them.

“The Cornell Anti-War coalition was asking questions that were unanswered in Bush’s State of the Union,” said Tomer Malchi ’03, who organized the protest. “We were discussing the disparity between military and education spending.”

“Several students leaving the building came to listen to what we had to say,” Malchi added. “A lot of people were interested.”

According to Malchi, people exiting the building claimed that someone had attempted to light a fire in the Ivy Room’s fireplace without opening the flue and smoke was not able to escape.

Several students reported that they were not sure what was going on and that it was hard to hear the alarms over the noise in the Ivy Room. Some were simply reluctant to give up their hard-earned tables.

“No one really knew what was going on,” Fink added. “The alarm was loud upstairs but in the Ivy Room it was just like a little beep.”

Cornell Dining officials were unavailable for comment last night.

The Ithaca Fire Department responded to a call at Willard Straight Hall at 12:47 p.m. and reported that they had discovered a small chimney fire. Later Wednesday, a sign hanging on the side of the fireplace read, “CAUTION!!! !!!! Please do not attempt to ignite or put logs on the fire. Management.”

Archived article by Chris Mitchell