Early-morning fire forces dorm residents to evacuate

Amy Hamblin

Elder Hall residents were evacuated early Monday morning after a kitchen fire set off the dorm’s fire alarm, University Police said.

UP officers put out the first-floor fire with a fire extinguisher at about 1:40 a.m., before Evanston Fire Department arrived, said Asst. Chief Daniel McAleer of UP. Thick black smoke and flames were emanating from the exhaust fan in the kitchen in the building’s west wing. The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined for sure, McAleer said.

Officers were already in Elder investigating a theft when a student ran out of the kitchen, yelling “there’s a fire,” McAleer said.

Once firefighters verified the fire was completely extinguished, residents were allowed back in the dorm, McAleer said. But students who live in the west wing had to wait another 20 minutes to return while the area was ventilated.

Police are giving the Office of Student Affairs the names of several students who didn’t evacuate the dorm when the fire alarm sounded, McAleer said.

Elder resident Heather Belcher, who lives on the first floor, said she probably would have slept through the alarm if she hadn’t already been awake.

The Communication freshman said she was especially irritated because she had stayed up later than normal and was getting ready for bed at the time.

Because of the high volume of false alarms, Belcher said, many students assumed there wasn’t a real fire in the dorm Monday.

“It gets annoying when people burn popcorn and pull (the alarm) all the time,” she said. “It breaks people’s trust.”

— Amy Hamblin