Residents in MIT’s Eastgate graduate dorm were forced to evacuate their building on Saturday when a stovetop fire broke out at 1:35 p.m. in the penthouse kitchen on the 29th floor, which is open to all residents. Residents were transported by bus to Sidney-Pacific, where food, childcare, and air conditioning (the temperature was over 92 degrees Saturday afternoon) was available. Most residents were allowed back into the building at 8:30 p.m. (around seven hours after the fire), but MIT had to put up a few residents in the Hyatt overnight. Since this event occurred the week before graduation and summer classes begin on Monday, some residents had moved in just days before the fire.
When the fire broke out, the sprinklers and smoke detectors in the kitchen went off at the same time — no one had pulled a fire alarm. The water from the sprinklers got into the elevators, stairwells, and the hallway on the 27th floor. Water also intruded into three apartments on the 28th floor, including the housemasters’ apartment.
In the hours following the fire, inspectors were called in to fix the electrical system and elevators, which were affected by the water. According to code, residents cannot be let into the building unless there is at least one elevator in working condition. MIT staff were also in place to retrieve emergency medications from apartments for residents who needed them.
About 25 MIT staff came in to help with transporting residents from Eastgate to Sidney Pacific and providing food and childcare. MIT police were also in place at Eastgate to update residents who were away from the building during the fire.
The kitchen where the fire began is being worked on now and will take “several weeks” to finish, according to Senior Associate Dean for Residential Life and Dining Henry J. Humphreys.
There is some minor property damage on the 28th floor. According to Humphreys, it is still to be decided who will pay for it.
The total cost of the cleanup and repair following the fire has not yet been tabulated yet.
Humphreys said that the emergency system did what it was designed to do. “The sprinklers went off and suppressed the fire, and the fire department put down the rest. It did what sprinkler systems are supposed to do,” Humphreys said.
According to Dennis Collins (director of residential life for capital renewal, renovation, and repair), the last fire with similar consequences was in 2006 in Westgate, when residents were evacuated for 12 hours.