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Fires Prompt Concerns in Sr. House, Baker

By Stacey E. Blau
News Editor

Recent fires at Senior House and Baker House over the past few weeks have prompted concerns about house policies and safety.

At Senior House, "students smoke in the building, and there have been some problems in the lounge area" across from the desk, said Senior House House Manager Daniel P. Concesion.

"One of the Senior House staff members pointed out to me that there were a large accumulation of cigarette butts on the floor as well as some random burn marks in the furniture in the lounge area," prompting Concesion to put a number of ashtrays around the lounge, Concesion wrote in a letter to the Senior House e-mail mailing list.

People continued dropping cigarette stubs around the lounge, despite the presence of ashtrays. "I put up signs to tell people to use the ashtrays, and someone set one of the signs on fire," Concesion said. "You can still see the burn marks on the wall."

One night early in the month, a resident of Senior House in the lounge area lit a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrapper on fire, Concesion said.

Another resident smelled something smoldering and called the Campus Police, who in turn called the Cambridge Fire Department.

"I was not happy with what happened, but I really don't think there was any malice in it," Concesion said. "That's where they hang out, that's where they smoke. I think it was definitely blown out of proportion a little bit. "

The person who lit the fire "owned up to the incident. At no time did he attempt to deny it. He admitted that he shouldn't have done it," Concesion said.

Concesion declined to give the student's name. The CPs are still investigating the incident.

"As a tutor, I think incidents like this endanger everyone," said Henry H. Houh G, a graduate resident tutor at Senior House. "It's a problem with inconsiderate, careless smokers. They'd like to have a pseudo-public place to smoke in the TV room, but those arrangements haven't necessarily been agreed on."

Senior House has experienced other fire problems during the year. In November, a resident lit a fire in a drum on a balcony, and CPs had to come put out the fire. Before house elections for a new president in October, a resident lit a poster on fire.

"A lot of these fires that happen make it more and more difficult to obtain a permit for Steer Roast, and no one wants that to happen," Houh said.

After two fires, Baker bans posters

Two posters were set on fire in separate incidents at Baker over the past few weeks. "Someone lit one of the smaller posters on fire," Baker House Manager Kenneth F. Winsor. "It was just a small, normal-size piece of paper on the wall in the hallway."

The CPs and the fire department were called in because of one of the incidents. The Safety Office came over the same day and took a tour of the building. "They told us we couldn't have any of the bigger posters - murals, maybe three or four feet long," Winsor said.

"It's a state law that says we can't have such big posters," Winsor said. "I took down all the hand-made posters. It's more than your regular poster - over three feet long." The smaller posters are still allowed to be placed on walls and posterboards in the dormitory, he said.

Since the enforcement of the ban on the large posters, there have not been any new problems, Winsor said. "It was more of a random prank, I think," she said. "Someone really wasn't thinking. But it really is a dangerous situation.

"We took care of it mostly in-house," Winsor said. No perpetrators have been caught, but both Winsor and Baker Housemaster and Professor of History William B. Watson are still looking into to the incidents. "We're going to seek full prosecution on the person or persons responsible," Winsor said.