A fire broke out in Riepe College House of the Quad in the morning of April 20, relocating over a dozen of students for the foreseeable future.
The fire, which started in a residential room, caused the activation of the fire alarm and sprinkler system. Penn Police and Fire Departments, as well as the Philadelphia Fire Department, were on the scene. No students were physically injured, according to a statement from the Division of Public Safety.
The fire started at around 9 a.m. on the first floor of Magee Hall, according to College first year Jada Eible Hargro. Eible Hargro, along with other students in Riepe and parts of Ware College House, were forced to evacuate.
“My roommate and I were woken up by the alarms at 9:12 a.m. At first we were confused because normally we are warned before fire drills, but then we smelled smoke," Eible Hargro, a staffer for The Daily Pennsylvanian, said. "We started getting ready to evacuate and began rushing when one of our RAs was pounding on peoples’ doors telling us it was a real fire.”
Engineering first year Mantas Viazmitinas said that the fire was able to cause substantial damage before authorities were able to interfere. He said that he saw firefighters break a window on the first floor before spraying water.
“I saw a mattress laying outside the window later in the day and it was burnt through to the point you could see the springs," Viazmitinas said. "The whole building smelled like smoke from the outside.”
College and Engineering first year Alicia Sun agreed, saying that she saw debris on the floor while evacuating — despite the hallway being quite hazy due to the smoke.
According to an email sent to Riepe residents, students were allowed to return to their rooms at 12:34 p.m. except for residents of Ashhurst and Magee Halls.
Approximately 50 students living in the upper floors of Ashhurst and Magee were temporarily displaced during the day on Thursday as a result of the fire, with some students on the first floor being offered housing in the Sheraton Philadelphia University City hotel.
"As of 4 p.m. today, 21 students from the first floor of Ashhurst and Magee are being relocated to the Sheraton. I have no word at this point on how long it will be before they can return," Penn Business Services Director of Communications and External Relations Barbara Lea-Kruger told the DP.
Sun told the DP that she has been granted permission to stay at the Sheraton until April 25, but she may have to stay longer if the University requires more time than currently expected to clean up and address the damages.
According to the DPS statement, authorities from Penn Police and Fire Departments and the Philadelphia Fire Department are continuing to monitor the scene. They have yet to declare the cause of the fire at the time of reporting.
Students told the DP that they think the fire was caused by a fan or air conditioning unit.
“I think it was the fan or AC unit that caught fire in the room on the first floor. Quad security and a few RAs all said the same thing. It’s hard to say whether it happened spontaneously or something triggered it,” Wharton first year Shiv Sahai said.