Fan ignites fire at Brunswick Apts.
A faulty fan ignited last Friday, setting off a raging fire
in Brunswick Apartment H1 and causing approximately $35,000 worth of damage.
Brunswick Fire Department was on the scene at 11:35 a.m. and even though
the fire was contained by 11:45 a.m., it had managed to melt the entire
contents of the common room, including the T.V., stereo, and computer.
The rest of the apartment, which belonged to Dennis Kiley '03, had heavy
smoke contamination, and little could be salvaged. Estimates of the damage
reached $25,000 in property damage and $10,000 content damage.
Deputy Fire Chief Clark Labbey attributed the cause of the
fire to an electric fan that either short-circuited or its motor overheated.
"I'm very leery of electric fans," Labbey said. "They have
certainly been known to cause fires before."
Kiley, who was accustomed to leaving his fan on while away,
actually debated whether he should turn it off before he went to class,
but decided against it. "It doesn't seem real," Kiley said.
"It still hasn't sunk in yet." He learned of the incident on
Friday afternoon when Residential Life sent out an email stating that
there had been a fire. The email did not convey the severity of the fire
according to Kiley: "I thought it was a little fire, because the
letter really played it down." Even so, he rushed back to his apartment
to find it blocked off by fire fighters, and he had to wait an hour for
the building to be secured before he could survey the damage. "I've
lost so many possessions, my place to live-it's very overwhelming; it
weighs you down," he said.
John Koster '04, a resident of Brunswick T1, was one of
the first witnesses to the fire. "I heard the fire alarm, and thought
it was a drill at first, but I looked out my window and saw flames,"
he said. Koster ran to get an R.A. and then proceeded to open all the
doors in the lower apartments to "see if people were inside taking
a nap." Ricardo Simmonds '04, a Brunswick Apartments R.A., attempted
to put out the fire with an extinguisher, while Koster called security.
The fire also affected other Brunswick residents. Sophomores
Mike Stevens and Ryan Chisholm of H3 had to vacate their apartment from
Friday until Tuesday because of the water damage. "We were living
on O'Neil's [of H4] couch," Stevens explained. The fire had caused
cracks in the ceiling, and water was responsible for mildew growth in
Restoration of apartment H1 will be performed by an outside
contractor and, according to Bob Graves, Director or Residential Life,
"could take up to a month." In the meantime, Kiley has been
assigned to the "crash room" on the 12th floor of Coles Tower,
but has also been living with a friend off-campus.
The severity of the fire, which Assistant Director Mike
Brown deemed "the worst fire I've seen at Bowdoin in five years,"
has caused many Bowdoin students to be more cautious. "Note to self:
don't leave stove on all night," Stevens said. Sophomore Kala Hardacker
said, "It brings awareness to the everyday threat of fire on campus."
As for Kiley: "I'm much less naïve. I didn't think that these
things could happen on campus, especially to me."
Fires of a lesser magnitude are quite common at Bowdoin, according to Chief Labbey. He stated that the most common cause of fire, both on campus and overall in America, is food left on the stove unattended. In terms of overall fire prevention, Labbey urged students to turn off appliances when they left the room, never to leave candles burning, and keep hallways clear to facilitate evacuation.