Response to dorm fire makes students wonder where their money is going
Standing outside in the cold is how everyone wants to spend a weeknight, right? Okay, maybe not.
But that’s exactly what students living in the Broadway Housing Building dorms got to do on Oct. 18.
Due to a small, grease-related fire on the sixth floor, all students living in the Broadway housing building were evacuated around seven in the evening and were told to remain outside until fire crews had checked the entire building.
Mechanical engineering freshman Kyle Ruppel was simply trying to cook some vegetables on his stove top when a fire broke out. “I think what happened was that I sloshed some oil onto the burner or maybe it just reached a certain temperature,” Ruppel said. “It wasn’t enough oil to start an actual oil fire. I think it was just some weird circumstance that caused it to light.”
Unlike other fires, grease and oil-based fires can’t be put out with water as water makes the flames bigger. When a grease fire starts, the best solution is to remove the burning object (in this case the sauce pan) from its heat source, which is exactly what Ruppel did.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t quick enough, and the smoke and heat from his burning pan caused the smoke alarm and sprinklers to go off. This immediately soaked everything in the room with water and fire retardant solvent.
The sprinklers only added fuel to the oil fire, causing a small fire that could easily have been extinguished to get much worse. “What was weird was that the sprinkler that went off was the one outside the door of the kitchen, not the one on the kitchen ceiling where the smoke was coming from,” Ruppel said.
The sprinkler water coming from Ruppel’s room was so plentiful that it dripped down to the floors below, causing minor water damage to some rooms and soaking the floors.
Repairs began soon after the fire. In order to drain the water soaking through the sixth floor dorm, firefighters had to pry the toilet from the floor of Ruppel’s bathroom to make a drainage source.
For the first three days after the fire, Ruppel and his roommate couldn’t stay in their room. “We were essentially homeless,” Ruppel said. Luckily, he was able to go back home to Eugene the following weekend and spent some time with his family while the cleaning crew got to work on his room.
Though the fire happened in Ruppel’s room, he wasn’t the only student affected by the water damage. Graphic design freshman Collin May, whose room sustained serious water damage, had to spend multiple nights in a friend’s room while the baseboards in his room were replaced and dehumidifiers dried everything. He also had to move everything out of the way on his own.
May feels he should have been compensated for the inconveniences. “I definitely should have at least gotten some money back since I had to live in a construction zone and it made studying for midterms extremely inconvenient,” May said.
While the repairs to Ruppel and May’s rooms were being made a few of Ruppel’s possessions were broken. “I have a few lamps that are completely broken to bits now and they weren’t like that before,” Ruppel said.
According to Ruppel, the housing office hasn’t made communication easy either. Cleaning and painting crews have come to the room unannounced and an insurance agent showed up with no warning to assess the damage, and most importantly, no one has told Ruppel if he’ll be fined for the water damage that his and others’ rooms have sustained. “No one’s getting back to me,” Ruppel said. “I’ve been so pro-active, like, ‘what can I do, what do I need to do?’”
While it may be ridiculous to expect things to run smoothly all the time when you place hundreds of young adults together in one building, this lack of foresight on Residence Life’s part has made students wonder where their money is going.
Students living in Broadway FYE pay $3,500 per term. While the Broadway rooms are fancy and some furnished with a stove and mini-fridge—small amenities the Ondine dorms don’t come with—such heavy water damage from so small a fire makes one think that the housing services aren’t up to par.
In order to prevent further situations like this, students living in the dorms should be made aware of basic fire safety at the beginning of each term. Seeing as students living in the dorms are paying outrageous fees to begin with, placing more fire extinguishers in more places (or perhaps a small fire extinguisher in each room) wouldn’t hurt either.
Currently there are fire extinguishers at the end of each hallway in the Broadway dorm. However, when you’re in a situation in which you need to react quickly, as in Ruppel’s, the end of the hallway is the last place you’re thinking of running.
A representative from the housing department was unavailable for contact, but here’s something for the office to think about: that nice, new dorm building that’s currently in construction is going to be awfully lonely with no students willing to pay to live in it if something isn’t done to improve the safety standards for students.
Let’s just hope that no more grease fires break out.