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Blocked Chimney Evacuates Random

By Orli G. Bahcall
Staff Reporter

Cambridge firefighters and police had to be called in to evacuate Random Hall Sunday after a blocked chimney caused smoke to flood the building.

The emergency caused residents to be moved for several hours to the MIT Museum building across Massachusetts Avenue from the dormitory before being allowed to return.

The event also deprived the dormitory of heat and hot water for the night, forcing administrators to make space available for residents to spend the night at other West Campus houses, said Margaret A. Jablonski, associate dean of residence and campus activities.

Students who could spend the night in Burton-Conner or Ashdown Houses, Jablonski said. Few students used the service, however.

The cause of the blockage is still not clear, said Random Desk Captain Samir S. Gandhi '97. The fire department "found a fire extinguisher thrown down one of the chimneys," Gandhi said, and this could possibly be the cause. "This is an internal matter we have to resolve."

"There is an ongoing investigation into the cause of the fire," Jablonski said.

Students smelled burning

The fire department was alerted to the incident by a fire alarm in the early evening. Residents were also aware of an odor filling the building.

"We noticed a smell of some combustion-type odor and traced it down to the basement," Gandhi said.

The blocked chimney interfered with the heating system and caused gases to build up, Gandhi said. The heating system had to be immediately turned off as a result, he said.

The building facilities - including heat and water - had to be shut down to make repairs to the chimney, according to the fire department. Only when the chimney was cleared could the heating system be turned back on yesterday.

There will be a house meeting at 7 p.m. today to "try to clarify what all the problems are that have been happening in Random" Jablonski said.

Sunday's event was not the only one of its kind this week at Random, as a sewer drain blockage on Friday night caused water to back up, Gandhi said.

The water leaked through the first floor and flooded the trunk room, Gandhi said. "A lot of personal property was damaged beyond repair."

On Saturday night there was a complete water shutdown at Random, Gandhi said. "A yellow powdery substance" was observed "spurting out of the pipes and toilets" when the water was turned on again Sunday morning, Gandhi said. The water was declared unsafe to drink, and an Environmental Medical Service worker was called in to take a sample of the substance for analysis, he said.

The sewage in the rooms and hallways was "only cleaned up [yesterday]," Gandhi said. "Residents were very upset. They had to live in unsanitary conditions for the weekend."