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Lit Burner Starts Small Networks Fire

By Michael A. Saginaw
Staff Reporter

Students evacuated the Student Center shortly after midnight on Sunday morning when a small grease fire broke out in the kitchen of Networks. The fire started because a burner on a gas range was left on, according to the Cambridge Fire Department.

An MIT employee walked by Networks, noticed the fire, and set off the fire alarm, according to John T. McNeil, associate director of food services. The Cambridge Fire Department arrived three minutes after the alarm went off, and they quickly extinguished the blaze with a fire extinguisher, according to the fire department.

"The automatic fire alarm systems did not go off. The fire never reached that level," McNeil said.

"It was not a serious fire," said Alan Leo, general manager of food services. "If an employee had been inside, he could have put it out with a fire extinguisher," he said. He added that equipment near the fire was not damaged.

Because the fire alarm sounded, all students were evacuated from the Student Center. "An alarm went off, so we all logged off and left. We could see smoke coming from Networks when we got out," said Abhilash R. Vaishnav '96, who was in the fifth-floor Athena cluster.

Networks was not allowed to open until yesterday afternoon, when an inspector from the Cambridge Health Department came to look at the restaurant.

"Networks was closed Sunday and Monday. On Monday we brought in our usual repair crew to make sure that something in the stove itself had not malfunctioned. They broke it down piece by piece and assured us that it was all right. We've had the burner lit and we know it's fine," McNeil said. He added that while the restaurant was closed, the staff also did some cleaning.

The burner that started the fire is on the only stove in the Networks kitchen. The fire department tagged it, and Networks is not allowed to remove the tag or use that stove until it is inspected by a Cambridge plumbing inspector. However, Cambridge does not currently have a full-time plumbing inspector. As a result, an inspector has not yet been able to come to Networks. Until one does, Networks can only use the two broilers, McNeil said.