At around 9:45 a.m. last Tuesday, over 700 students were evacuated from New Residence Hall after a fire broke out in a 14th floor room.
According to Michael Porritt, executive director of Residences and Student Housing, the fire was isolated to the one room.
“A student had lit a candle, and went to sleep,” he said. “The candle was under a curtain, and it lit the curtain.”
Porritt explained that the student’s roommate walked in minutes after the fire began, and alerted the student. Moments later, sprinklers in the room went off and quickly extinguished the fire, but by this point the evacuation process had already started.
“Without the sprinkler system the whole room would have been engulfed in flame in four minutes,” he said.
The fire damaged some furniture in the room including the curtain and a mattress, but sprinklers caused the majority of the damage. A dozen rooms – four rooms on the 14th, 12th and 11th floors (there is no 13th floor) – are currently “not inhabitable” as a result.
Of the 18 students living in the 12 rooms, all but one are now staying in the Delta Hotel at 475 President Kennedy. The other student is staying in another New Rez room.
The 12 damaged rooms have been filled with dehumidifiers and should be dry in about a week.
Porritt noted that the students in the Delta Hotel had been “very patient.”
“[The rooms have] been stripped down to the studs. The dry wall has been removed up to four feet,” he said. “Beyond the 12 rooms, there’s at least a dozen [more damaged], and there’s damage in the hallways.”
Porritt said that, in a best-case scenario, it would take six weeks to fully repair the rooms, including the week spent drying them out. As a result repairs won’t start until May.
Open flames are banned from McGill residences, a rule reiterated in an email sent out to all residence students that Tuesday afternoon.
Porritt also stressed that he was extremely impressed with the handling of the situation.
“The students in New Rez were actually quite amazing,” he said. “It was one of the fastest evacuations we’ve ever had.”