The Tuesday before Thanksgiving break at 3:12 a.m. a fire started in Mason hall and triggered the fire alarm and sprinkler system according to a report by the Greencastle Fire Department.
A fan left plugged in on the third floor, caught fire after its owner left for Thanksgiving break according to the Director of Public Safety, Angela Nally.
“It’s just a reminder that electronics can be dangerous, and that you should unplug them for break periods,” Nally said.
Students evacuated, but many were initially confused about what was happening. “Immediately I got angry because I assumed somebody had just pulled the alarm or burnt popcorn or something,” said sophomore, Christopher Moyer. “While I never thought the building was going to burn down or anything, I was afraid that my room was going to be damaged since I live on the third floor.”
Students felt the process for getting them out of the building was effective, but many wished that they were more quickly informed about the situation. Students did not know what happened until hours after they left the building, and they were not let back into their dorm until 8 a.m.. “One of the things I would change is just the initial information getting out,” said junior Austin Luckett. “Having someone send an email out to the RA’s to inform us about what happened instead of us all sitting in Lucy for two hours waiting, but not a lot of stuff was damaged.”
Public Safety arrived at the scene, but the situation was handled by the Greencastle Fire Department. “I think that the opportunity here exists for how real a dorm fire can be, “ Nally said. “It is really important that every time a fire alarm sounds, you exit the building and that we all hold each other accountable for people who are pulling the pull stations.”
The sprinkler system on the third floor engaged in the incident, soaking many student’s personal property and ruining it. “I’m kind of disappointed that DePauw didn’t send out any acknowledgements about it (the fire),” said sophomore Norah Song.
Students said they were stressed about with exams looming and handling the damages is adding to their anxieties. “Our rooms got flooded and we have to move our stuff, and it was just a mess, and a lot of notes got ruined, and it’s finals week,” Song said.
The University is not in charge of helping students get recoup damages. According to Luckett, he made a list about what was damaged and his insurance would be in charge of reimbursing him.
Students without homeowners insurance will not be able to have the same help as other students. “I’m an international student, and my parents are not here, and of course I’m not going to have homeowners insurance, and my international director advisor is trying to figure things out too, but what they figured out now is that the University insurance is only going to cover their furniture, but not our stuff,” Song said.
Students affected by the flood have been placed in temporary housing across campus in Lucy Rowland Hall, and Senior Hall.
The most recent major dorm fire occurred in Rector Hall in 2002 and was caused by an electrical appliance. At the time DePauw, set up an emergency fund to assist affected students in replacing damaged belongings.