March 15, 2000
KALAMAZOO -- A fire in Hoekje Hall on the Western Michigan University campus was quickly brought under control early Wednesday, March 15. Students were evacuated within minutes after two female students discovered the fire at about 1:30 a.m. One of those students sustained minor injuries while breaking the glass covering the fire alarm pull station. She was treated at a local hospital and released.
"The response of our students and staff to this emergency was excellent," said WMU President Elson S. Floyd. "We give credit to those two young women for their quick and level-headed actions that allowed our students to safely leave the building. Our staff also is to be commended for the training and awareness of fire safety that they have provided."
A total of 412 residents of the hall were evacuated to the nearby Bernhard Center. Some students spent the rest of the evening with friends; others were temporarily housed in other WMU residence halls. All students were encouraged to call their families to alert them to the incident and reassure them of their safety. The faculty/staff dining room in the Bernhard Center has been set aside for Hoekje residents and equipped with long distance phone access so students can call their families. University personnel will be available at that site to counsel students and provide updated information.
The fire was confined to one room on the first floor of Hoekje Hall. Fire damage to that room was extensive and smoke damage to the rest of the first floor was substantial. The room where the fire started was not occupied. No cause has been determined.
Residence Life Director Kathleen Kanz reports that it is too early to determine when residents will be able to return to the hall, but smoke damage to the first floor is severe and it is likely that residents of that floor will be relocated for the remainder of the academic year.
Hoekje, built in 1959, is located in the center of the WMU campus. Kanz says that, like all WMU residence halls, residents take part in fire drills twice each semester. Since initial fire drills during the fall semester resulted in very slow response and long evacuation times, her staff had embarked on extensive education and fire awareness efforts. During subsequent fire drills evacuation times were cut to about four minutes. She credits that work with the quick evacuation of the building.
An information line has been set up to disseminate the latest information about the incident. That number is (toll free) 888 WMU-INFO.
Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org
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