November 17, 2008

Risley Kitchen Fire Causes Evacuation

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At about 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, a small fire broke out in the third floor kitchen of Risley Hall, keeping its residents from their rooms for about three hours. No serious damage was done, as the fire was quickly put out by Devin Conathan ’08, who received first to second degree burns on his left hand.
“I walked by the kitchen and saw a four-foot flame coming out of a pan in the stove,” Conathan said.
Upon seeing the fire, Conathan was “a little scared,” but he maintained his calm and put out the flame with a fire extinguisher.
The resident who set off the fire by leaving an oiled pan on the stove unattended apologized to the entire Risley community through an e-mail later that night.
“I was really afraid, but I think [confessing] was the right thing to do. If people don’t know who is responsible, there would be resentment in the air,” the student told The Sun. Still, she felt “very guilty” and offered to pay for the damage, including the money needed to replace the stove.
After Conathan extinguished the flame, fire alarms wailed and sprinklers in the third floor corridor were set off. Soon afterwards, the front lawn of Risley was crowded with residents and illuminated by the bright lights of two fire trucks, one police car and one van from the Emergency Medical Service unit.
Although the flame was immediately put out, residents were not allowed back into their rooms until two hours later, as firemen and police examined the floors for damage.
“They were looking for damages and checking every room on every floor to make sure the fire didn’t spread,” said Julie Grimaldi ’10, a residential advisor on the third floor.
All staircases were guarded by policemen and nobody was allowed back to their rooms.
University facilities were also called to mop up the flood in the third floor corridor, as well as the stairs.
While some students with prelims were anxious about the time lost on last minute studying, Residence Hall Director Elaine Bushey tried to calm them down. She announced that their situation was explained to the deans of all seven colleges by an email.
Although some residents were allowed back to their rooms at about 12:45 a.m. a second fire alarm soon went off and sent disgruntled students back to the front lawn. Water from sprinklers damaged the fire alarm system and nobody was allowed back to their rooms until the alarms were fixed, Bushey announced through a loudspeaker in a police car.
Finally at 1:20 a.m., all residents dragged their tired feet back to their rooms. Risley breathed a sigh of relief.
No sprinkler was set off in the rooms, but water from the corridor’s sprinklers seeped into at least two rooms in the third floor. Andrew Hoelscher ’11, whose room was a few feet away from the affected kitchen, found “a centimeter of water everywhere” in his room when he returned from his job later that night. Although his carpets were still a little damp and his room smelled “funny” from the water, he expressed no anger.
“There is no permanent damage. And it was an accident. It just happens,” Hoelscher said.
This sentiment was shared by many students, including Elizabeth Briggs ’11, who had to wake up at 4:30 a.m. the next day for an equestrian practice.
“I was very annoyed at that time and I’m really glad it was over. But everybody has incidents. I’m not mad at [the student who set off the fire. She offered to pay for the damage and confessed in an e-mail. I think she handled it really well,” said Briggs.
Conathan, who could have bragged about putting out the fire, played down his importance.
“I was just in the right place in the right time. I hope somebody else would have done the same,” Conathan said.