Gelman Library was evacuated Friday morning after firefighters from at least three D.C. fire houses were called to campus.
A fire, located in the building’s air handler, was quickly extinguished, a D.C. Fire Department battalion chief on scene said. An air handler “distributes air throughout the building,” the chief said, equating it to an air conditioning unit.
“It moves the air around inside the building and apparently it caught fire in one of the motors,” he said.
Junior Stephen Molldrem said he was studying on the third floor at around 7:30 a.m. when a nervous-sounding voice on the building’s loudspeaker asked everyone to evacuate.
“[The voice] got on again about 30 seconds after that and repeated the request to leave, and then the alarms started going off,” Molldrem said.
“As soon as we packed our things and walked toward the elevators, we could smell smoke and a librarian ran upstairs and told us to leave immediately,” Molldrem said. “As we went downstairs, the smoky smell intensified, and we could actually visibly see smoke on the first floor,” he added, saying that the floor smelled like an overheated computer.
Molldrem said that few people were in the building at the time.