Students Escape Fire at University As Two Blair Hall Suites Are Gutted

March 23, 1993 (~estimated)

Students Escape Fire at University As Two Blair Hall Suites Are Gutted

A student’s discarded cigarette is being blamed for an early Monday morning fire that gutted two third-floor suites in Blair Hall on the Princeton University campus.

One occupant, sophomore Stuart Barry, was treated for minor burns around his lips and later released from McCosh Infirmary. Six other students occupying the suites escaped safely.

More than 100 students had to be evacuated, some by rooftop rescue. Sixteen students were displaced by the blaze, the first major fire on campus since a fire in Little Hall in the early 1970s, and will be offered alternate housing on campus.

The fire started around 5:30. It was discovered by sophomore Bill Taylor who was awakened by the heat and smelled smoke. He ran into the other rooms yelling and alerting the other occupants. Alarms in the dorm went off at 5:39 and firefighters from all three Princeton fire depart-ments responded at 5:43.

“It was a good one. Flames were coming out the windows when we got here,” said a firefighter at the scene. Firemen extinguished the blaze in about 15 minutes and were able to return at 7:30.

After the fire was extinguished, Princeton Fire Official William S. Drake, Fire Chief Ray Bianco and Det. Ralph Terracciano conducted an investigation into its origin. In a report, Mr. Drake said their investigation concluded that the fire originated in a sofa in a common living room of Suite 115 and was attributed to a discardedd cigarette in the sofa.

According to University  spokesman Justin Harmon, smoking is permitted in all University dorm rooms.

Damage from the fire was contained to the two third-floor suites, a common stairwell and hallway. The living room where the fire started and an adjoining bedroom sustained heavy fire damage. The other adjoining bedroom and common living area of Suite 116 and the hallway sustained heavy heat, smoke and water damage. The fire burned a hole through the roof above the suites.

Dollar estimates of the damage were unavailable. When a further investigation by Princeton Building Official Martin Vogt uncovered some structural damage the building was declared unsafe. Students will not be able to occupy either suite for three months, an official of the University’s maintenance department said.

Students from Blair Hall, which borders University Place, and adjacent Joline Hall were evacuated into a courtyard. Some stood by shivering in their underclothes as they watched. Some occupants managed to escape through the living room door and through a skylight. One, sophomore Prisdha Dharma, had to be rescued from the roof by a ladder truck, after he had climbed though a skylight to escape the black smoke.

Barry, the student who was injured when he ran into a door on his way out, commented later, “We got out just in time. By the time we got out the ceiling was engulfed in flames.” Barry said he had panicked trying to escape and ran into a door that was so hot it burned his lips and singed his hair.

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