Thurston: 2005 vs. 2006

About a year ago, a room in Thurston Hall caught fire, leaving resident Kevin McLaughlin in very bad shape. There is probably not a sophomore, junior, or senior on campus who doesn’t remember this event. I know I remember it clearly, getting an early morning wakeup call and running to the dorm to cover the story.

Thurston room 913 was severely damaged in the fire. (Media Credit: Jeff Baum)
Thurston room 913 was severely damaged in the fire.
Media Credit: Jeff Baum

In June 2005, The Hatchet reported:

Amid questions about the effectiveness of Thurston’s sprinkler systems and the fact that the fire was first identified by a Secret Service officer outside the building, the University put together a panel to evaluate GW’s fire safety protocols.

‘The University established a working group of administrators from a broad range of area responsibilities to review the incident and the University’s response,’ said Matt Nehmer, assistant director of media relations. ‘We expect the working group to complete its review by the end of the summer, and any necessary changes identified as a result of that review will be implemented.’

The group has representatives from the general counsel’s office, Student and Academic Support Services and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Louis Katz’s office, among others.

When the fire broke out, it did not spread to other rooms due to sprinklers that discharged in the hallways of the dorm, but Thurston Hall is an old dorm and does not have sprinklers inside rooms to extinguish fires. Kevin’s father Timothy told The Hatchet last year, “If there had been a sprinkler system in Kevin’s room, I think he would be in a lot better condition than he is in now.” Katz pointed to two changes the University made to promote fire safety: banning smoking in dorms — though the fire was determined to have been cause by a portable grill — and initiating health and safety inspections, which calls for the confiscation of such grills.

In Summer 2005, GW updated its sprinkler system in the West End, Dakota will get a new sprinkler system this summer, and Katz said, “over the next four years, a number of projects will be undertaken to upgrade fire and life safety systems in residence halls.” But he also told The Hatchet that Thurston Hall today is “equally as safe” as it was in March 22, 2005 when the fire scorched room 913.

Read Andrew Breza’s full story here.

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