About 40 students temporarily relocated to other residence halls after Thurston fire

Media Credit: Ari Golub | Photographer

Forty Thurston Hall residents are staying in University-owned buildings like 1959 E St. while officials work to repair water damage in Thurston rooms.

About 40 Thurston Hall residents are indefinitely living in at least three other residence halls after a fire broke out on the third floor Friday evening.

The students who could not return to their rooms have been given rooms in residence halls and University-owned buildings like 1959 E St. and One Washington Circle Hotel, University spokeswoman Crystal Nosal and students said. Nosal said officials are working “around-the-clock” to address the water damage on the first three floors of the building caused when the sprinkler system activated to put out the fire.

Nosal said no students were injured in the fire, and students could return to all but 13 Thurston rooms.

“We found accommodations for all displaced students,” Nosal said in an email. “Saturday morning, we evaluated the damage to the affected rooms and worked with those residents throughout the day on alternative living arrangements and an assessment of their belongings.”

Nosal said “resident assistants,” area coordinators and staff members from the Division for Student Affairs were in the hall Saturday to answer any Thurston residents’ questions about the incident. She said officials offered breakfast to all Thurston residents in the building’s lobby that day.

“We will continue to communicate with the group of students whose rooms were directly affected and will work with them in the days to come,” she said.

Nosal declined to say what kinds of damage the 13 rooms suffered. She also declined to say how long the students will need to stay in their reassigned residence hall rooms.

Nosal declined to say how officials are working to clean the water damage. She declined to say how much the repairs will cost the University.

Officials placed two free laundry cycles, one for the washing machine and one for the dryer, on first-, second- and third-floor residents’ GWorlds to compensate for any articles of clothing damaged by water from the sprinkler system, according to an email from Thurston area coordinator Marcella Wong sent to students on the three floors.

Area coordinator Julian Batts sent an email Saturday to students who could not return to their rooms to ask that they remain in their new room assignments “until further notification” from housing officials.

“Your safety is our top priority, and we want to ensure your room is in safe condition before allowing you to return,” he said in the email.

Students who cannot return to their rooms can file reimbursement requests with the Office of Risk Management, according to the email.

Ari Golub | Photographer

Students were escorted to the Marvin Center after a fire broke out in Thurston Hall.

Fourteen students said officials have not told them how long they will need to stay in their room assignments before returning to Thurston, leaving them uncertain about how many clothes and supplies to bring to their new room.

Freshman Jake Spivak, a third-floor resident who was relocated to 1959 E St., said a friend called him Friday night to say water was flowing into his room and was “about an inch high.” Spivak said he went upstairs to his room and saw “dark, muddy water” flowing in from two rooms away, where the fire occurred.

“It was disgusting black water,” he said. “And it was flowing from her room down the hallway, down the stairs.”

Spivak said his belongings were not damaged because the water only rose to a few inches in his room. He said he and his roommates are not allowed to move back to their room until cleaning machines are finished reversing the water damage to the floors.

He added that moving his bedding and other belongings to a different room is “annoying” because the water only rose about an inch and his room was not badly damaged.

“We weren’t affected that much except we can’t live in our dorm,” Spivak said.

Freshman Michael Abrahams, who relocated from the second floor of Thurston to 1959 E St., said he was out at dinner when the fire started and the students in the building were evacuated. He said officials told him when he got back from dinner to go to the Marvin Center, and he decided at about midnight to book a room at the Courtyard Marriott hotel on New Jersey Avenue with friends because they did not receive information about when they could return to their Thurston room.

“It was so gross. Fortunately, there was no damage to the property in my room, but the halls were just trashed.”

“It was very little information, which is understandable, just very little information,” he said. “They sent us a lot of emails about which floors could go back. Eventually, they said floors four to nine could go back to their rooms, and floors one through three got no information, so by that point we knew it would be a while.”

Abrahams said officials have agreed to reimburse him and his friends for the night they spent in the hotel. He said officials have been “very organized” about assigning displaced students to other rooms on campus but have not provided much information about when he can move back into his room in Thurston.

“They told us Monday at the earliest,” he said. “Again, they really haven’t told us much at all.”

Freshman Jin Haugland, a third-floor resident who relocated to Francis Scott Key Hall, said she saw an inch and a half of “foul-smelling” water in her room when GW Police Department officers escorted her to get her medicine.

“It was so gross,” she said. “Fortunately, there was no damage to the property in my room, but the halls were just trashed.”

Haugland said officials have not given her any information about how long she will need to stay in FSK or how many clothes she should take from her Thurston room.

She said she hopes officials decide to allow students to remain in their newly assigned residence halls for the remainder of the semester to provide enough time to thoroughly clean the damaged area.

“I don’t trust school officials to be honest with us about when it’s safe to move back,” Haugland said. “I think we deserve something better.”

Alice Chang, Ella Stern, Isha Trivedi and Yankun Zhao contributed reporting.

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