By Daniel C. Houston
Residents at Collins Residence Hall were prompted to evacuate the building Friday around 1 p.m. after a dryer motor in the sixth-floor laundry room caught fire.
The sprinkler system was able to contain the fire to the room until emergency personnel from the Waco Fire Department arrived on the scene. The fire was put out within 30 minutes and no people were injured, according to Don Yeager, assistant fire chief.
“The sprinkler system did its job containing the fire to the dryer,” Yeager said, “and right now the biggest thing we’ve got going is evacuating the smoke out of the building, checking the [carbon-dioxide] levels to make sure all that’s the way it needs to be, and then I’m sure there’s going to be some clean-up that Baylor’s going to have to address.”
Colleyville freshman Makenzie Hagestad and Austin freshman Kelsey Regan, roommates, were in their room on the sixth floor when the alarm went off. They said the smoke had spread through the hallway and made it difficult to see and breathe.
The clean-up efforts ended up temporarily displacing 16 residents and two student staff members, according to Lori Fogleman, director of media relations. Baylor is providing rooms for those displaced students Friday night at a local motel and expects them to be able to return to their rooms by Saturday night.
The building was re-opened to all other residents Friday at 5:30 p.m.
Most of the damage to the building was caused by the sprinkler system itself and is isolated on the fifth and sixth floors, although relatively minor water leakage was reported on the lower floors as well, according to a university press release.
There was some concern earlier in the day about whether the electrical panels throughout the residence hall were also damaged, but after inspecting all electrical panels, facilities personnel declared them to be 100-percent operational. Air conditioning in the building is now fully operational, as well.
While some students waiting across the street from Collins Residence Hall were anxious about the condition of their belongings — particularly that of their laptops and other electronic possessions — they expressed relief that the fire was contained and the damage was not more extensive.
While water from the sprinklers spread across the floor to the hallway and living areas, the sprinklers went off solely in the sixth-floor laundry room, not the rooms of residents or student workers.