Fire damages two Mayflower apartments
Collaborative efforts by Bowdoin students, the Brunswick Fire Department, Bowdoin Security, and Residential Life effectively extinguished and eradicated damage caused by a fire that set a Mayflower Apartments kitchen ablaze on the evening of Saturday, October 11.
A student, who asked to remain anonymous, was cooking on the stove in her apartment. While cooking, oil caught fire and soon grew into an uncontrollable fire. The heat and smoke set off the fire alarm in all of Mayflower Apartments, and residents began to evacuate. Tim Dooley, the RA at Mayflower Apartments, and his roommate Zac Gittens heard the alarm and headed to the front of the building.
"We assumed it was a fire drill," Gittens said, "except Tim was the RA, and he didn't know about a fire drill."
When Dooley and Gittens arrived outside the front of the building, the student whose stove was in flames informed them that it was a real fire. Dooley said, "Zac headed towards the fire, and I headed to the room to call 911 to inform them it was not a false alarm."
While Dooley returned to his room to phone 911, Gittens went inside the student's apartment to make sure no one was in any of the adjacent apartments. Gittens navigated through thick black smoke to determine the smoke's source. After seeing the fire coming from a pan on the stove, he returned outside to rejoin Dooley, who had attempted to call 911.
"The phone wasn't working properly, so I went out and saw Zac again, who informed me that [the fire] could be put out,"Gittens said.
Dooley and Gittens teamed up on the fire: "We both broke the extinguisher cases on each floor of the building, and with [Gittens] leading, we sprayed the extinguishers into the kitchen. I didn't get a good look at many flames, but it was very smoky," Dooley said.
Soon after, Bowdoin Security Officers Troy Burr and Margery Logan arrived at Mayflower Apartments, having received notice of a fire alarm. Director of Security Bruce Boucher said the officers advised Dooley, "to leave the building as the sprinklers in the kitchen were activated and there was thick smoke through the apartment and in the hallway."
Some of the "smoke" was likely steam, due to the fact that the fire triggered a sprinkler above the stove. Todd Williams '04, a volunteer firefighter who was on the scene said, "When the temperature reaches around 120 degrees, the little red pellet on the end of the sprinkler melts, and the water starts flowing."
Williams, who carries a beeper activated by the Brunswick Fire Department dispatcher, arrived at the fire scene before the fire truck. He was returning from another call at the Brunswick Naval Air Station and was only four blocks from the Mayflower Apartments. Having just come from the call at the Naval Air Station, Williams said, he knew the next engine was a few minutes away, so he headed over to Belmont Street.
Upon Williams's arrival, Dooley and Gittens's efforts with the fire extinguishers controlled the fire. However, smoke, steam, and water continued to spew out of the apartment. Equipped with his firefighting gear, Williams entered the smoldering apartment and turned the burner off, eliminating the heat source and minimizing the steam.
Within minutes, a Brunswick Fire Department engine and volunteer firefighter Travis Brennan '04 arrived independently and teamed up with Williams to minimize damages by the fire, smoke, and sprinklers.
Brennan said, "I was directed by Deputy Chief [Robitaille] to the first floor along with another firefighter. We used salvage covers to try and protect peoples' valuables like hard drives, laptops, notebooks, and pictures. The water was leaking pretty steadily from the second floor-[there were] about two inches of water in some parts of the first floor apartment we were in."
Bob Graves, Director of Residential Life said, "the sprinkler flooded the apartment, and the fire department did a very good job at diverting water out of the apartment" to prevent additional flooding. "They used tarps on poles [salvage covers] to make the water flow out the window." Eventually, Graves said, "Security and the firefighters were able to shut off the sprinkler system."
Williams said, "Often, sprinklers cause more damage than the actual fire." Indeed, the firefighters spent much more time cleaning up the water than fighting the fire. Williams said after the fire that he and Brennan and Brunswick firefighters spent "an hour or so mopping up, using [their] wet-vacs to save furniture" and clean up the mess caused by the sprinklers.
Damage caused by the fire and the sprinkler forced the six residents out of two apartments-the apartment where the fire occurred and the apartment below it.
Graves said, "Flooding from the upstairs apartment seeped through the floor and ruined the ceiling of the downstairs apartment. The Fire Department opened up the ceiling before it fell down on someone's head." As a result, residents of these apartments were displaced while Facilities made repairs and cleaned up water damage.
Three of these students were placed in "crash rooms"-rooms in Coles Tower kept empty by Residential Life in case of emergency-and have now returned to their recently-restored apartment. Another three students are, according to one of the displaced students, "camping out in Brunswick [Apartments]." Graves said he is hopeful that Facilities will finish re-plastering the ceiling soon and that the students will be able to return to their apartment in the next few days.
Positive comments about all of the players involved abounded. Boucher said, "Kudos to [Dooley] and [Gittens] for thinking and acting fast during this emergency situation." Graves said, "The Fire Department did a great job. The students did a great job. Security did a great job."