Munson Hall residents said a faulty oven caused their building to fill with smoke Wednesday afternoon, leading to an evacuation. But University officials say the fault lies with the two students.
Munson resident Jason Pozner said he came home after class at 3:05 p.m., smelled smoke and heard the smoke alarm going off in his neighbors’ fifth-floor room. He notified the hall office staff, which called the University Police Department. UPD arrived about 3:30 p.m. and the D.C. Fire Department arrived a few minutes later, Pozner said.
There was enough smoke to fill the room and hallway and create a stench that crept down to the first floor, Pozner said.
UPD came up and opened the door and the room was just billowing smoke, Pozner said. They shut the door, pulled the fire alarm and knocked on all the fifth floor doors and told people to leave.
The evacuation was quick and students remained calm, said junior Ruth Tanner, a Munson resident.
The Fire Department disconnected the oven that caused the evacuation because it was damaged, said Tara Woolfson, a Community Director. The University will replace the oven, she said.
University officials and the two women who live in the room told different versions of what happened.
Woolfson said the two students in room 504 left their oven on with pans inside while they were gone, which caused the smoke.
But juniors Colleen Campbell and Danuta Stankiewicz, who live in 504, said they have not touched their oven since the second week of school. They said the oven’s pilot light failed to work all year, and it made the room smell like smoke when they tried to turn it on.
The residents said they first submitted a maintenance request in September. Two technicians looked at the oven and said it was fine, the students said. They said they filed another request Monday.
The roommates said they were only in the kitchen to pour a glass of milk, get food out of the refrigerator and do the dishes Wednesday.
You can’t logically say we just hit the knob to turn the oven on, since you have to push it down and turn, Stankiewicz said.
Campbell said she was the last one to leave the room at 12:25 p.m. and there was no heat coming from the oven then.
Stankiewicz and Campbell said most of their belongings reek of smoke, and their food, posters and carpeting are ruined.
They said the University has been helpful and has arranged for them to stay in a guest room in Mitchell Hall.
Woolfson said she does not know if the two women will face disciplinary action.
Campbell and Stankiewicz said they feel the incident could have been avoided with proper maintenance, but they are glad it happened at a time when there were so few students in the building, and not while they were sleeping.
This was the second fire alarm this week in Munson, Campbell said. Over the weekend smoke from a student’s kitchen set off the fire alarm, several residents said.
Students should be really cautious in their rooms, Woolfson said.
Students said they understand how a fire can occur so easily.
The kitchens are too small, and you need a place to store pots and pans, Munson resident Steve Auyeung said. We store ours in the oven.
Other GW students said they feel fire risks are not an issue in residence halls equipped with kitchens.
Because there’s a fire extinguisher next to every stove, I don’t feel it’s a problem, said sophomore Laura Bettencourt, a resident of Riverside Towers.
Sophomore Ken McVeigh, who lives in JBKO Hall, said students need to be watchful of their possibly hazardous actions.
People lived in a house or wherever with a stove for 18 or 20 years before they came to college, he said. I hope they know (to be careful).
Auyeung said the number of fire alarms can make students reluctant to evacuate, because they think the alarms might be false.
Don’t assume the alarm is false, said Woolfson. Always take them seriously.