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Fire at East Campus Does Little Damage

By Ifung Lu
Associate News Editor

A fire at East Campus on Tuesday night resulted in an evacuation that kept students out of the dormitory for more than an hour.

Fire officials from the Cambridge Fire Department responded to the alarm at 8:59 p.m. and extinguished a fire in the basement of the Hayden section of the dormitory.

A trash receptacle under a chute caught fire when some flammable material was dropped down the chute, said Kenneth R. Wisentaner, associate director of housing and food services. Flames and smoke then went up the trash chute.

Although there was no serious damage to the building, some of the carpeting sustained water damage from sprinklers triggered by the fire, Wisentaner said.

The sprinklers caused significant flooding in the hallways and some of the rooms on the top three floors of the west parallel, said hall tutor Anthony E. Gray G.

The Cambridge fire department arson squad is investigating the fire, according to Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin. "The fire department's view right now is that it was of suspicious origin," she said.

It is not unusual to call a fire suspicious until more is known about the cause, Glavin added.

Eight extra Physical Plant workers were dispatched "to clean up the debris so students could get back in the building and get to sleep," Wisentaner said. "Response from the Cambridge Fire Department and Physical Plant was excellent."

Smoke alerts residents

Dense black smoke from the fire traveled up the trash chute and collected on the upper floors of the dormitory, alerting residents.

Margherita Chang '95 was one of the first to notice smoke on the fifth floor. Chang activated the alarm that alerted officials to the fire.

"We went out [into the hallway] and there was smoke coming through the door. We didn't open the door. Someone called the Campus Police, and I pulled the fire alarm," Chang said.

Stephanie A. Jenrette '97 also noticed the dense smoke that was slowly filling the hall. "It was so smoky that I couldn't see the door" dividing two sections of the dormitory, she said. "We just ran out."

Not all of the smoke detectors went off, even when smoke was quite dense, Gray said.

Evacuated residents congregated outside the dormitory, inside rooms in Building 66, and at the Pritchett Snack Bar while firefighters put the fire out.

East Campus Housemaster Shigeru Miyagawa was "happy that everyone was safe, and that during the evacuation Walker [Memorial] was open so that EC residents could be indoors, out of the cold."

Miyagawa said he would look into "what steps should be taken to try to avoid any future fires of this sort."

The sprinklers went off again at 3 a.m. early Wednesday morning for some unknown reason, Gray said.

Ramy A. Arnaout contributed to the reporting of this story.