Students poured out of Wesley Hall on Dec. 4 when, around 1 a.m., the fire alarm went off. In a mixture of pajamas and bathrobes, students milled around outside of the building, wondering what had happened.
For the second time during the fall term, a fire had started concerning a Florida Southern College residence hall.
Melanie Vanderford, a studio arts sophomore, was “trying to go to sleep” when the alarms went off, as was fellow sophomore Anthony Kaine.
“I’m pretty pissed. I’m not going to lie,” Kaine said.
Other students were also dismayed about the fire.
“[I’m] very, very upset,” Ryan Miller, a sophomore biology and pre-medical major, said.
After a while, the lobby areas in Nicholas Hall, which had not been evacuated, were opened to students from Wesley to wait for the all-clear. Students were allowed back into Wesley roughly two hours after the fire alarm sounded.
At the time there was not much information available to Wesley’s residents.
“Obviously someone started it somehow, so I guess they’re wanting to find out who started it first,” Miller said.
Currently, the exact cause of the fire remains unknown, as the Fire Department and arson investigator were unable to locate what item caused the fire, as well as whether or not it was intentional.
Bill Langston, dean of student development, and several other members of the FSC administration, were called to Wesley that night. Langston said that the fire did not do any real damage to the building.
“Fortunately, the damage was just contained to that closet area,” Langston said. “There was a little bit of water spill out into that bottom hallway area, but even it was contained. We got it cleaned up that evening, and we were able to get students back in the building without any major delays.”
The thick plastic bin that the fire began in was visibly melted from the fire when it was removed from Wesley that night. When the fire ignited, it set off the sprinkler system, causing the water spill, but putting the fire out before the Fire Department arrived.
“It put the fire out very quickly,” Langston said.
Sprinkler systems are found throughout campus in order to ensure the safety of students in case of a fire.
“Every residence hall is sprinkled, with the previous exception of Hollis and Dell,” Langston said.
Over winter break, workmen installed sprinklers throughout Hollis and Dell, a move that had been in plan for some time before the Wesley fire. Not all of the work is done though: there are still a few floors in Hollis that do not have the sprinkler system installed.
“The goal is to complete that over spring break,” Langston said.
Langston said that FSC’s second fire would not change the school’s current fire policy. FSC currently uses reminders of fire safety protocols to students, follows fire codes and conducts health and safety checks.
“It is something that we do take seriously…” Langston said, “we just want to make sure that students stay informed and know what we expect, and how we want students to govern themselves in the residence halls. I think it’s just thinking before we act sometimes.”