Fire in Rollins group forces hour-long evacuation

There was a little heat before the snowfall Tuesday night.

A fire started in a utility room in the Rollins group dining hall from overheated cleaning rags in a dryer, said Dean Martin, Columbia Fire Department battalion chief.

"We had students there for Rollins Pizza, so they called 911," said Julaine Kiehn, Campus Dining Services director.

The fire alarms in the Gillett and Hudson residence halls went off last night at 10:02 p.m., Martin said.

He said there was no problem in putting out the fire.

"The fire was contained by the sprinkler head in the room," Martin said. "We just went in and put the rest out."

He said the fire was too thick to find at first, so thermal imaging cameras were used to find the fire and put it out.

Martin estimated damages of around $5,000.

"There is a lot of water damage," Martin said last night. "We'll get the brunt of the water."

By Wednesday morning, the only water in the Rollins group area was from melted snow from students' shoes. The Rollins group dining hall was not open for breakfast Wednesday, but did open at 11 a.m.

"We knew it was stop day," Kiehn said. "So we invited students to go to Eva J's while we got prepared."

Kiehn said Rollins group employees had to run all the pots and pans through the dishwasher, because smoke had run through the kitchen. They also had to have a sanitation worker inspect and recharge a fire extinguisher.

Hudson and Gillett residence halls were evacuated almost immediately after the alarms went off.

"Once the Rollins the alarms go off, then the Hudson and Gillett alarms need to be pulled," Hudson community adviser Allison Corry said.

Corry said she didn't notice any problems in evacuation.

The time it took to put out the fire and rope off the damages caused the students to stand out in the cold for a while, Martin said.

"We were out there for over an hour," said freshman Kris Eubank, a Hudson resident.

Kody Finstad, the desk assistant at Hatch Hall Tuesday night, said students were starting to go to Hatch to get out of the cold until they could go back.

"Residents from Gillett and Hudson were starting to crowd up here, so MUPD called us once they started letting students back in," Finstad said.

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