BREAKING: Fire breaks out on the third floor of New South

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Update 10:37: 12 rooms have standing water in them and 23 rooms are “affected” by the water. President John DeGioia and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson have joined students in Sellinger Lounge where Student Affairs has provided students with ice cream and pizza. Olson said students would have to leave rooms for a “few days, at most,” and that the University is bringing in high-intensity cleaners.

Update 8:58: At an informational meeting in Sellinger, Vice President of University Safety Rocco DelMonaco said that it will take the University 60 to 90 minutes to do an “inventory” of the dorm. Some students will be allowed back into the dorm tonight. Those whose floors were affected by flooding could either stay with a friend or be assigned a place to stay by housing services.

Update 8:31: An RA said that some of the water flooding the third floor had seeped down to the second floor. RAs collected phone numbers from students at an informational meeting in Sellinger Lounge and will contact students to tell them where they can stay tonight.

Update 8:19: The post below now includes information from the D.C. Fire Department and EMS hotline.

Update 7:57: An anonymous RA said that New South will not reopen for a few hours and that some students may have to sleep elsewhere, possibly in the ICC.

Sometime before 7:00 p.m. this evening, a fire broke out in an empty dormitory room on the third floor of New South.

A recorded message on the D.C. Fire Department and EMS hotline said that fire fighters were dispatched just before 7:00 p.m. When they responded to the scene, they evacuated the building and found that the fire had been effectively controlled by the sprinkler system. The fire appears to have been accidental. There were no injuries and only “minimal damage” to a laptop and some other items, the recording said.

According to Kelley Kidd, who said that the fire started in her room, she was sitting in her friend’s nearby dormitory when they “heard a big bang” and then a fire alarm coming from another room. The floor’s Resident Assistant found her to tell her that the alarm was coming from her room. Kidd and her friend opened the door and could see a lot of smoke, she said.

“There was a fire on my desk, about that high and that wide,” Kidd said, motioning that the fire was about two feet tall. “It looked like some books were on fire and it looked like it was beside my laptop.” (Full disclosure: This semester, Kidd wrote a weekly feature for Vox Populi.)

Kidd turned to her friend and said “No! There’s library books in there! What are they going to do to me?” her friend recalled, laughing.

RAs and fire fighters at the scene declined to comment on the cause or location of the fire. It is unclear who called the fire department. Kidd said smoke began appearing in the room next door to hers along the back wall, where she and her neighbors share an outlet, leading her to speculate that the fire was an electrical fire.

An RA who was not authorized to speak on the subject and did not wish to be named said that the sprinklers went off on the third floor, causing flooding.

Caitlin Gilbert (COL ’13) and Brittanie Leibold (COL ’13), who live two doors down from Kidd, said they opened their door when the hallway fire alarm went off.  They exited as an RA began to yell, “Get out, get out!” and “a big cloud of smoke” filled the hallway.

Additional reporting by Cole Stangler and Ishita Kohli

Photos by Lexie Herman

26 Comments on “BREAKING: Fire breaks out on the third floor of New South

  1. Caitlin Gilbert and Brittanie Leibold would be COL ’13, if they’re living in New South this year, wouldn’t they?

  2. i’d be pretty upset if i were living in new south and had to sleep in the icc, especially bc finals season is here… why not actually put these students in the hotel?

  3. how are people paying $52k/year for this? the prestigious name isn’t worth it if safety isn’t guaranteed. (and there are many other problems, including issues with other types of safety)

  4. Yeah, for 50 grand, the university should be able to prevent accidental electrical fires originating from private laptops before they happen.

    Doesn’t the fact that the sprinkler system effectively suppressed the fire show that Georgetown is doing a good job on fire safety? Not every occurance on campus has to be a reason for outrage

  5. “RAs collected phone numbers from students at an informational meeting in Sellinger Lounge and will contact students to tell them where they can stay tonight.”

    – Shouldn’t they have them already? Maybe for situations LIKE THIS!?

  6. @CF thank you for that comment

    on another note-
    “An RA who was not authorized to speak on the subject and did not wish to be named said that the sprinklers went off on the third floor, causing flooding.”

    if you aren’t authorized to speak on the subject, then why the heck do you call yourself anonymous and speak! someone doesn’t take training seriously!

  7. Um… maybe because speech does not require authority, but is a natural, human phenomenon that existed before “authorization” did? The person simply meant they were not speaking in an official capacity.

  8. Student’s should not sleep in the ICC. I agree, they should be staying in the hotel. Georgetown should try to accomidate their students in the best possible way and the ICC is not it. I do also agree that Georgetwown should have students phone numbers. It is a matter of basic knowledge.
    But in this situation Georgetown did provide for our safety. No one got hurt right? So stop being so dramatic, accidents happen.

  9. Poor Georgetown. It really cant go more than a few weeks without a PR disaster/logistical nightmare. Noro, sexual assaults, hate crimes, broken dishwashers, and now a fire? The question is, is Gtown a victim of circumstance or painfully inept?

  10. All students have the opportunity to provide cell phone numbers at the beginning of the semester. Not every student has a cell phone (contrary to popular belief), numbers change, and students ought to be accountable for themselves as well. They are adults now, too, you know.

    Give the university a break, and try to reflect on some of the things that they did properly. Some of you are so quick to jump down Georgetown’s throat, and you don’t even realize how good you have it here. Isn’t it fortunate that the building was evacuated safely, there were no injuries or fatalities, the alarms and sprinklers functioned as they should, and some students were allowed back into their own beds to sleep last night?

  11. And the students were never going to sleep in the ICC. That’s just what the anonymous RA said, which was wrong. Students have been relocated many times at GU for various reasons: the heat goes out, a flood, etc. GU provides them an alternate spot in an empty room or a room with an empty bed. Most students, fyi, when they get forced out of their room in an emergency choose to stay with a friend, even though GU gives them an alternative. And, regarding phone numbers: many students refuse to give GU their cell phone number.

  12. This whole thing really grinds my gears.

    I’ve been saying it for years and I’ll say it now: Georgetown needs to seriously consider fire-free dorms. The fact that dorms are still flammable is dangerous and irresponsible.

    Bottom line: Georgetown, its time to wake up and realize that your students don’t like fires.

  13. Compare this to some of the slumlord properties off campus- where would you prefer to have an electrical fire? I think I trust on campus much more.

  14. Not every occurrence on campus has to be reason for outrage, true. but I don’t think the flood of complaints is unwarranted. Why do you think people are so quick to jump down Georgetown’s throat? It’s a shame the students can’t be proud of their university, and I don’t blame the students on that one.

  15. “The fact that dorms are still flammable…”? What? Do you have nothing better to do but whine? You clearly need a class on fire prevention, fire safety and fires in general.

    Do you want an electricity-free dorm? A dorm without paper, wood, or wall hangings? A dorm without sheets? I don’t know if you realize, but a lot of substances are able to catch fire, or spread fire. Blaming Georgetown for the cause of the fire at this point seems ludicrous, especially if it may have started with someone’s laptop charger and if it spread to a student’s stack of library books. If the dorm was as “flammable” as you say, it would have burnt to the ground, spread to more of the building, etc.

  16. S.,

    Georgetown has a responsibility to keep its students safe. If that means no electricity, so be it. I’m not about to compromise my safety (or yours!) so that a couple kids can get their kicks watching a “youtube” video.

    You might counter this by saying that in 2009 electricity has become an essential part of the American lifestyle. To that I say maybe its time we took a step back. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t written on Microsoft Word, was it? We need to reevaluate what it means to be an American, and, more importantly, what it means to be human. If we find that our lifestyle poses fire risks, than maybe its time for something new.

    BOTTOM LINE: Technology is a slippery slope. It’s time to get back to our roots and start getting serious about safety.

  17. S., I’m pretty sure that Average Joe is being facetious..

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