April 5, 2012

As Miyake Fire Raged, Four Students Stayed Behind to Evacuate Others

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As Taylor Engstrom ’14 lay in bed just after 1 a.m. on March 7, the quiet night quickly took a dangerous turn when a smell that Engstrom thought was his roommates cooking instant pasta actually turned out to be the smell of a burning Japanese restaurant’s kitchen.

Engstrom, along with his roommates Nate Baruch ’14, Zakary Sanderson ’14 and Tucker Maggio-Hucek ’14, helped clear out 414 Eddy Street after a fire that started in the kitchen of Miyake, a popular Collegetown restaurant located in the building.

“There was this huge plume of smoke coming up from the back of the porch right above Miyake’s kitchen,” Engstrom said.

Though some residents exited the building quickly, the students, all of whom play for the football team, stayed behind to help their neighbors evacuate. As they knocked on doors, they realized that not all of the residents were aware of the fire, according to Sanderson.

The four students, who live in an apartment on the top floor of the building, said they were aware of the risks when they decided to alert their neighbors before exiting the building.

“After we saw the smoke we thought, at that time at least, that the fire was pretty bad and could take out the whole building,” Engstrom said, “Something could just blow up in the kitchen and cause damage.”

According to Engstrom, the Ithaca Fire Department responded “really quickly” after the residents of the apartment below theirs called 911.

Though all of the alarms and fire safety measures of the building were in place, the actions of the football players helped the firemen focus on putting out the fire instead of evacuating the building, according to Nick Lambrou, who owns the building through his company Lambrou Real Estate.

“It allowed the firemen to immediately go into the fire. The fire department has to first worry about people inside the building,” he said. “Though they went in anyways, what they realized was that these folks had done a great job getting everyone out already.”

Lambrou said the football players saw the fire from their apartment’s back porch and alerted emergency services, which were already on their way.

“And they did not just pack up their stuff and go. They went to every apartment and knocked on doors to tell everybody, ‘Listen: this is what’s going on,’” he said.

Lambrou said that he would have expected that the students would be the last ones to know about the fire, as they live on the top floor of the building.

“These nice young men told everyone else to help keep everyone safe. Everything was eventually fine but they didn’t know that beforehand,” Lambrou said. “They saw the flames and alerted everyone.”Although the residents of 414-416 Eddy St. were allowed to return to their homes that same day, Miyaki will be closed for several months due to significant damage to its kitchen, The Sun previously reported.

Original Author: Manu Rathore