Report: Fire caused $75,000 in damages

Clarification appended

A malfunctioning air conditioner caught fire in Schenley Hall on May 2, causing about $75,000 in damages, according to the D.C. Fire Department.

Electrical wires were the first object to ignite and no human factors contributed to the spread of the blaze, according to a D.C. Fire Department report. The report cites the source of the fire as “operating equipment,” which fire spokesperson Alan Etter confirmed was an air conditioner. No one was injured in the fire, but the report estimates $55,000 worth of damages to the building and another $20,000 to the “contents” of the room.

All repairs to the damage in the sophomore residence hall will be finished by July, said University spokesperson Michelle Sherrard. Although some of the 172 residents were temporarily displaced, everyone has been able to return to the building except the two students in room 202, where the fire began.

“Both students were offered alternative housing options,” Sherrard said.

GW already has a schedule in place for upgrading fire safety equipment in residence halls including Schenley, Sherrard said. The University plans to add new remote smoke alarms in Schenley, install hoods above stoves in several residence halls and upgrade all smoke detectors in the townhouses.

Fulbright Hall will see the most upgrades, Sherrard said.

“This summer, Fulbright’s fire alarm system will be completely upgraded,” she said. “Sprinklers will be installed in each room.”

GW has had several small residence hall fires in the past few years with the most significant occurring in March 2005, when a student was badly burned in a two alarm fire at Thurston Hall.

According to a 2007 study by the People’s Burn Foundation – a non-profit advocacy group – fires in university dorms are relatively rare. During the last school year, none of the 20 student fire fatalities nationwide occurred in residence halls, according to the foundation. They were all in off-campus buildings or fraternity houses.

This article has been changed to reflect the following clarification: (May 12, 2008)

The Hatchet misattributed some information regarding the source of the fire to a fire department report. The fire report stated that the cause of the fire was “operating equipment,” which was said to be an air conditioner by fire spokesperson Alan Etter.

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