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‘This is not a drill’ – a fire at Founder’s

'smoke was pouring out of the pantry window'

A fire took place at Founder’s building Friday 19 November. It lit up in Founder’s West on Friday the 19th of November. The fire was located in a pantry on the third floor. It is suspected that someone discarded something resembling a naked flame – possibly a cigarette –  in the rubbish bin before putting it out. The flames were unable to spread before the Fire Rescue Service arrived. There was little damage done to the pantry but nobody was hurt.

Founder’s building’s safety officer issued this statement to The Founder: ‘the fire was in W363, a third floor pantry in the west wing.  The alarm was set off at about 10:25 on the Friday morning by the heat detector in the pantry.  The fire started in one of the plastic rubbish bins and the most likely cause was that someone had put a cigarette, or something of a similarly hot nature (candle?), into the bin.  In the absence of any evidence to the contrary we have to assume that this was a careless act, rather than a deliberate one – we have to hope that no-one would deliberately endanger the lives of others in the building, be they students or staff.’

The officer also noted, however, that ‘this particular floor is a non-smoking area, which does give rise to some doubt about the accidental nature of the fire.’

Lucy Holland, an occupant on the third floor, walked in on the fire. She was in the corridor when she distinctly smelt smoke. She tells The Founder: “On impulse I pushed the pantry door open and smoke just poured into my face.” She hurried downstairs to alert security. Since there have been a lot of fire alarms since the start of term, she thought she should confirm that this was not another false alarm. She watched as “they took immediate action – a man ran in the building and came out a few minutes later coughing with streaming eyes.” She assumed “he had been in the room and tried to put out the fire.” Confused students waited outside and watched the scene for over an hour. Lucy said “three fire engines, an ambulance and the police turned up while smoke was still pouring out of the pantry window.”

Since moving into Founder’s, students have complained many times, shivering outside in the middle of the night or early in the morning. Founder’s students heard in their first assembly that the fire alarms in the building are extremely sensitive However, with all the false alarms, it seems residents have become careless. According to Residential Support, it took several students over 20 minutes to vacate the building. Most of the time, it may turn out to be pointless to drag ourselves out of bed and down the stairs – in pyjamas or bathrobes without shoes or a coat – but evidently the possibility of fire in Founder’s is not just a myth. Residential Support stated that leaving the building “may be inconvenient but it is the regulation and in the interest of everyone’s safety.”

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