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Student Center Evacuated

By Ramy Arnaout
and Lawrence K. Chang

Staff Reporters

The motor of the freight elevator in the Student Center overheated yesterday afternoon, resulting in an evacuation of the entire building. There was smoke in the fifth-floor reading room, but no serious damage was reported.

At 3:05 p.m. yesterday, the Student Center fire alarm sounded and the building was evacuated. About 15 minutes later six fire trucks were on the scene, along with police cars and an ambulance.

Fire fighters and police allowed people back into the building at about 3:50 p.m.

Philip J. Walsh, director of the campus activities complex, said that the freight elevator motor in the switch room of the basement of the Student Center overheated. The smoke generated from the motor traveled up the ducts and passageways of the building to the reading room, where someone pulled the fire alarm, he said.

By the time the firemen found the source of the smoke, the motor had stopped burning, and much of the smoke had dissipated, Walsh said. The ventilation systems of the building were able to replace the remaining smoke with fresh air, he explained.

"It was funny in that everybody thought it wasn't real," said Ranjini Srikantiah '95, who was at the Student Center Athena cluster on the fifth floor. "The alarm went off once -- people thought it was a quirk. The second time people looked around. The third time people started getting stuff together and doing last-minute saves," she said.

As students evacuated the cluster and headed for the stairs, they "could see smoke coming from the reading room, and they knew [the fire] was real," Srikantiah said.

It was a "very scary" situation, "but everyone cooperated and got out when they were supposed to," said Joanne Ivory, a Lobdell Court worker. "Some even left their lunches on the tables," she said.

The freight elevator will be out of service temporarily, but the rest of the Student Center will be open and operative as usual.