Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pierpont Dorm Fire



UPDATE:  Assistant Chief Lindsay Stromgren report below:

Amherst Fire Department responded to yet another box alarm, this one at Pierpont Dorm in the Southwest area of UMass at 9:36 PM last night.  First units on the scene reported "heavy smoke in the basement" and an additional tone was issued calling in all off duty personnel. 

The fire, believed to be an electrical malfunction, started in a dryer and smoke and water damaged was contained to the basement area.  One person on the scene (a Resident Assistant) was transported to Cooley Dickinson Hospital as a precaution for non life threatening exposure to smoke.

A little after 11:00 PM AFD dismissed off duty firefighters, the building fire alarms were reset and students were allowed back in the building for the night.

In an email this morning from Assistant Chief Lindsay Stromgren:

The call came in at 2130 initially for an outside fire so two engines were sent, then was updated while they were enroute to be heavy smoke in the basement so a Box alarm was toned out for the department.  It turns out it was a fire in the basement laundry room, behind one of the dryers, which was extinguished with a small amount of water from the hose that the first in crew advanced.  A secondary fire had started outside as a result of burning debris being blown out the dryer vent into a vent shaft next to the building that was full of leaves. This fire was extinguished by another crew with a fire extinguisher.  The fire alarm had been activated by the heat detector in the laundry room but it did not get hot enough to activate the sprinkler system although there was one present.  The cause of the fire is still under investigation but is not suspicious; it appears to have involved one of the dryers but not the clothes that were in the dryer.  Damage was limited to the dryer, some duct work and electrical conduits, and minor smoke and water damage in the room and hallway.   All residents were allowed to return to their rooms after about 1 ½ hours.  One resident was found to have not evacuated his room on the same level as the fire when the alarm sounded and his name has been forwarded to the Dean’s office for disciplinary action.


Other than that however a relatively quiet weekend for AFD as many students had gone home:



10 comments:

Anonymous said...

How much damage could a dry do?

Signed,

Hadley Strip Mall

Dr. Ed said...

The untold story here is the laundry machine slush fund -- officially known as something like the Vice-Chancellor's Cultural Enrichment Fund.

The revenue from the machines is split with something like 24% going to the vendor and 76% going to the CEF. None of the money goes to pay for the water, sewer & electricity -- that expense is shifted to the dormitory itself and thus the trust fund generated from dormitory room rental fees.

The Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs & Residence Life thus has a fairly significant discretionary fund that has been used for a variety of things including bringing Louis Farrakhan to campus -- that's how the CEF came to light in the first place.

As the vendor isn't getting very much money out of these machines, they really don't want to put very much money into maintaining them. MacGrey didn't when they had the contract, and Automatic Laundry didn't -- and while I may be wrong, I believe that they *still* have the contract, which is an extension of an extension of an expired one.

When they got it, circa 1999 or so, they were supposed to install all "new" machines -- and they installed rebuilt ones. I know - I was there and saw them coming out of the boxes. With a new contract there'd be "new" machines -- except that there hasn't been one -- I'm told that no one wants to bid on it, there isn't enough revenue in it to make it profitable to them.

And UMass (i.e. Residence Life) doesn't touch the machines or anything related to them -- it's not their job. Hence no one really maintains them and I'm surprised that this is the first fire.

Welcome to UMass...

Anonymous said...

Don't feed the animals.

Anonymous said...

The most important part of this entire post....the real take home message is the following

"one resident was found to have not evacuated from his room ON THE SAME LEVEL AS THE FIRE when the alarm sounded".

People, please, I'm begging you, when the fire alarm sounds, leave the building IMMEDIATELY and in an orderly fashion! I know that its inconvenient. I know that the alarms go off frequently and they are often false alarms. However sometimes they're not false, and you can't predict when those times will be. We have had fires on many of the UMASS dorms over the years, and we will undobutedly have them again. Make no mistake, the fire doesn't have to reach you. The smoke will kill you. Let me say it again. THE SMOKE WILL KILL YOU. The fact is that these buildings are very large. They take time to search. Especially with our limited staffing. Let me be clear (and this is my honest, but personal opinion) WE MAY NOT REACH YOU IN TIME. If just one or two factors were different this incident could have had a VERY different and tragic outcome. So do as you'be been taught since you were children...GET OUT AND STAY OUT.

Jeff Parr
Firefighter/Paramedic

Dr. Ed said...

THE SMOKE WILL KILL YOU...WE MAY NOT REACH YOU IN TIME. If just one or two factors were different this incident could have had a VERY different and tragic outcome.

Jeff -- go on campus, address them as adults (although they definitely don't act like them) and explain exactly how easily that kid could have wound up in a body bag.

Give some specific examples of where smoke inhalation has been fatal, name some of the chemicals that start getting produced when you get plastics burning and how very toxic they are.

Explain what happens when you breath superheated air -- bring your paramedic textbooks and show them what the textbook(s) say about it. Etc.

Between Enku Gelaye, Eddie Hull and the assorted schmucks who work for them, students simply are not going to listen to UMass -- your guys wouldn't either. However, if you go there and make your case to a few of the students, word well might get out that you are right.

Seriously, you and your guys are the only people that the UM students *might* be willing to listen to -- and do not underestimate how much that Enku, Eddie (and tthe now-gone Jean Kim) destroyed any credibility that the Division of Student Affairs had with the students.

Anonymous said...

Ignore him, and he'll go away.

Dr. Ed said...

Ignore him, and he'll go away.

No, he won't.

Even after the incident of September 28, 2009, he likely would have had done the right and decent thing, or some approximation thereof. It didn't.

And hence he will haunt you forever.

Don't like it -- pressure Enku to do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Ed,

I seem to remember a specific example at Rolling Green last January.

Dr. Ed said...

I seem to remember a specific example at Rolling Green last January.

I seem to remember posting something on a blog where I all but explicitly encouraged a certain firefighter/paramedic/union guy to go onto campus and describe the same incident. In explicit detail, bringing along his textbooks to cite should anyone question him on it.

Anonymous said...

Ed,

You and I both know that I can't just walk onto campus and hold impromptu meetings on fire safety. It would also bey rather time consuming, and possibly get me a stern talking to....if not arrested....if I decided to start knocking on doors in the dorms to spread the word. You may be correct in your opinion that students don't listen to the university officials, however I don't have the authority or the ability to personally educate the 30,000+ undergrads about fire safety.
I will say that I would think that by the age of 18, most people would have the common sense to leave a building when the fire alarm is sounding. On the other hand, 26 years in public safety has shown me that common sense really isn't all that common.
I posted my comments here because as I read the comments to any of Larry's posts that have to do with the university and its students, it is very clear that many of said students read this blog. Thus I thought that my message may well reach some of them.

Thanks again for your thoughs.

Jeff Parr