Sether Hanson '13 would have preferred his usual alarm clock wakeup last Sunday morning. Instead, he got a fire alarm, a shouting roommate and a face full of fire extinguisher exhaust.
Just before 6 a.m. on the morning of January 30, two students came into Hanson's room in Ladd House and discharged an ABC fire extinguisher on both him and his roommate, as well as across his room, according to Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols. Hanson and his roommate had been sleeping at the time.
According to Nichols, two male students took a fire extinguisher from Baxter House where they had been spending their Saturday night. At some point, the pair brought the fire extinguisher over to Ladd House, entering the building through an open door. The two students then gained access to Hanson's room via a propped door.
Both students, aged 20 and 19, had been drinking that night, Nichols said. According to Nichols, the two students came forward to Security approximately 15 minutes after the incident occurred and took responsibility.
For Hanson, the event was mostly a blur.
"I was sleeping," Hanson said. "The next thing I know, the fire alarm is going off in the whole house. I opened my eyes and everything was yellow. My eyes were stinging; I couldn't breathe."
Due to the fire alarm, Hanson and his roommate evacuated the building, along with all the other residents of the house. Brunswick Fire Department responded, retrieving one student who had slept through the alarm.
Due to the hazardous chemicals released in the air, students were not allowed back into the house, Nichols said, and crash rooms were set up in Chamberlain Hall and Coles Tower. However, most students elected to spend the remainder of the morning in friends' residences.
At the time of the incident, Ladd House residents feared the worst. Hanson said a fireman told one resident she might not be able to return to her room for several days, and that electronic equipment could potentially be damaged.
But the wait was much shorter. Despite earlier fears, the exhaust remained largely in the room in which the fire extinguisher had been discharged, with some residue making its way into the hallway, according to Interim Director of Residential Life Lisa Rendall. However, nothing out of the ordinary was found in any other bedrooms. Ladd House residents were able to return to their rooms by 11:30 the same morning.
"Housekeeping was great," Rendall said. "We had overtime staff come in to get everything cleaned [and] we got students back in less than six hours, which is great."
Though Hanson was able to return to his room, many of his belongings were not there.
"Me and my roommate didn't have any of our clothes or our sheets," Hanson said. He added that the two of them were forced to borrow clothes from their suitemates—they were fortunate to be the same size, he said—and were using sheets and pillows provided by the College.
Hanson said that he and his roommate received most of their belongings back on Tuesday.
Hanson indicated that he thought the entire ordeal was a prank that went a little too far. One of the students involved was Hanson's first year roommate, someone with whom he said he is still very close. The other student he knew through his former roommate, though not well.
Nichols said the financial damages for the two perpetrators would be substantial. He reported that the fire department response costs about $650 and the bill from facilities totaled near $1000. Those charges did not include laundering services nor any future damages that might be found.
E-mails sent to the two students who admitted guilt were not returned.
Though no electronics showed immediate harm from the contents of the fire extinguisher, Hanson said he was told it might take time for the particles to potentially damage any technology.
Nichols and Rendall stressed the importance of understanding the dangers of fire extinguishers. Given similar incidents in the past, an e-mail was sent out to all students on Thursday detailing the hazards of fire extinguishers.
Despite everything, Hanson found a silver lining.
"Our room was cleaned," Hanson said. "Everything else was clean and put on hangers. All our shirts were dry-cleaned."