March 15, 2000
KALAMAZOO -- Most residents of Hoekje Hall began returning to their rooms late in the afternoon Wednesday, March 15, after Western Michigan University officials completed an evaluation of the damage caused by an early morning fire on the first floor of that residence hall. Much of the day was spent repairing electrical lines, resetting and testing fire safety equipment and monitoring air quality. The hall was officially reopened at 4:30 p.m. after it was declared safe for occupancy. Phone lines are working in all the rooms that have been reopened.
Residents of the B-wing of the first floor were gathered for a meeting with university personnel to be reassigned rooms and to be given updated information and assistance in making the transition to new room. The 30 affected students have been assigned rooms elsewhere in the WMU residence hall system, since repairs to the first floor B-wing, which suffered extensive smoke damage, are not expected to be done before the end of the semester.
The fire in Hoekje Hall was quickly brought under control early Wednesday morning. Students were evacuated within minutes after two female students discovered the fire at about 1:30 a.m. The smoke detector in the room where the fire originated drew those two students into the first floor hallway. After seeing smoke coming from the room, they pulled the hall fire alarm 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."
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 at the time of the fire.
No determination of cause for the fire has yet been made and damage estimates are not expected to be complete for several days.
Hoekje, built in 1959, is located in the center of the WMU campus. Kathleen Kanz, director of residence life, 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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