The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 70.0°F | Partly Cloudy

Fire in MacGregor Causes Evacuation

By Ramy A. Arnaout
News Editor

The discovery of a deliberately-set fire prompted a dormitory-wide evacuation of MacGregor House Sunday night. A burning roll of toilet paper filled J-entry with smoke and resulted in the evacuation.

"The Cambridge Fire Marshals were here, as was the Arson Squad," said MacGregor Housemaster Steven J. Lippard. "Nothing like this has happened in the recent past."

"I thought we did pretty well in emptying the place out. It was good to see that everybody got out rather quickly," Lippard said.

As the dormitory's 350 residents looked on from the front steps, city firefighters converged on the house's J-entry, where Physical Plant Mechanic Ronald J. Beaulieu pulled the fire alarm after hearing reports of smoke.

"I was checking the exhaust fans on the roof. I thought it might be a burnt-out exhaust fan," Beaulieu said.

The building was evacuated at about 9:30 p.m., Lippard said. "It took about half an hour to figure out where [the smoke] was coming from," he said.

By 10 p.m. firefighters had discovered the source of the smoke - a toilet paper roll had been set on fire on the floor of the J-entry first floor bathroom.

The roll was not on fire when the firefighters arrived. "All there was was the burnt out roll of toilet paper," Beaulieu said.

While Campus Police has begun to investigate the matter, we do not know who set the fire yet, said Chief of Police Anne P. Glavin.

"I don't really know why it was done," Lippard said. "Anytime there is smoke or fire in a building it's not a trivial matter. It needs to be addressed, and we will do that."

Lippard called an emergency meeting for the 30 to 40 J-entry residents late last night to discuss the incident.

The MacGregor fire was not the the night's only incident. "Someone said there was a brush fire" up the street near Tang Hall, Beaulieu said. There is a chance the two events were related, he said. "The fire department figured there was someone running around, having some fun, if that's what you want to call it."