Fire in Du Bois College House displaces 32 occupants

Fifteen rooms were affected by Saturday night's fire

· September 23, 2012, 9:56 pm

A fire on the fourth floor of Du Bois College House late Saturday night has caused 32 occupants to be displaced from their rooms for at least two days.

The Division of Public Safety said the fire was contained to one room, and set off two sprinklers which affected several other rooms. There were no injuries.

According to Du Bois House Dean Patricia Williams, there was “significant water damage” from the fourth to first floors. Fifteen student, resident advisor and graduate associate rooms were affected. There was also minor damage to the computer lab.

College freshman Cherice Nealy and Nursing freshman Angie Gonsalez said the fire started in their room, number 423.

“Basically, I was at the stove cooking,” Nealy said. “I turned the stove on, the toaster was on the counter, and I guess it was too close to the heat. I went back to my room and then heard the fire alarm go off, and I saw smoke. The toaster was melted and in flames.”

One of Nealy’s roommates then immediately called the fire department, while Gonsalez ran downstairs to tell building security.

Nealy said less than a minute elapsed between when she turned on the stove and when the fire alarm went off.

The fire caused a building-wide evacuation after setting off the alarm. Williams said residents were out of the building for over three hours. She said prior fire evacuation drills helped the community respond to the incident “orderly, calmly and patiently.”

Wharton freshman Simon Tesfalul was asleep in his room, number 223, when the fire alarm went off. He said the alarm was not extremely loud from his room.

“I slept through the fire [alarm] for like 20 minutes while people were freaking out,” Tesfalul said. “When I went to go downstairs, water was everywhere, leaking through the roof. Everywhere was soaked.”

Tesfalul is one of the residents who has been temporarily relocated. Engineering freshman Jerrell Walker’s room, number 323, was also damaged.

Walker said there were puddles in his room and in front of the door. “There was a machine, like a vacuum, for cleaning up the water,” he added.

All affected students have been given temporary housing in Homewood Suites near 42nd and Walnut streets. They are expected to be back in their rooms either Monday or Tuesday, according to DPS.

Williams said that Residential Services and other staff have been working around the clock to clean up the water and make rooms habitable for residents.

The Philadelphia Fire Department will continue to investigate the reason for the fire Monday morning.

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