Between 4:30 and 4:45 P.M., we received a call of witnesses reporting some coming from the fourth floor Of Cobb Residents’ Hall, and were immediately dispatched to the scene,” said Fire Fighter spokesman Randy Young, as the multiple fire trucks around us flashed their lights. By that time, the fire was “contained, everyone had been evacuated safely, he continued.”
About an hour and a half before, an Alert Carolina text message along with subsequent email had been sent across campus. “!Alert Carolina! Police and Fire officials responding to Active Fire At Cobb Residence Hall; motorist should avoid the area,” the text said. I received this test as I was leaving work for the day. As I exited the building where I work, I heard multiple helicopters soaring above. I immediately called several friends to make sure they were ok, and headed towards Cobb.
As I neared Cobb Parking Deck, I began to smell smoke. The smell was unusual because it smelled like a mixture of wood and rubber. Multiple fire trucks had arrived, and the sirens were deafening. As I arrived on the scene at around 5:20, the fire was across the left side of Cobb with the entire floor engulfed in smoke. Smoke was pouring out of the chimney in the commons area as well. Students stood around, stunned at what was happening before them. Many of them were talking about how quickly it had spread.
I began to talk to several of the students after several attempts at a receiving a comment or reaction for this blog, and managed to speak to two roommates, Asma Warrich and Jasmin Signh, both juniors. As I began to ask for their reactions, the firefighter on the cherry picker began to smash out a window. “That’s our window,”Asma said. “The fire started in our room.”
After the initial shock, Asma then begin to explain what happened. “We were sitting there in our room, and I plugged in my computer. The power suddenly shut off and everything stopped working. So, she (Jasmin) and I went to the front desk to complain. While down there, the fire alarm went off so we left the building. When we got outside, we noticed smoke coming from the chimney and our room, room 410. After a few minutes, our RA (Resident Advisor) called it in. It was just so sudden; I mean I don’t have my shoes on, just socks. We just sat there freaking out watching and observing the breakout from our room.” Jasmin repeated the same story emphasizing she “hoped everything was ok,” in her room.
After a few minutes, another resident approached me. Lena Verone, who lived diagonally, in the middle hall, to where the smoke was coming from, was extremely nervous and agitated. “I can’t see my room from here,” she said, “so I don’t know what to think.” Asked what could have possibly started the fire she claimed, “well, last week on that side of the hall, a thermostat was going insane.’ When questioned about what she meant she replied, “it was making this weird humming now, and like twitching almost. I remember thinking “this is going to cause a fire,” because I had never seen a thermostat do that before. It looked to be water damage.” She added however, that she wasn’t sure if it was water damaged and that “it had been fixed.”
As the firefighters broke more windows to let the smoke out, the fire officials began to push us back until we could no longer walk on the sidewalk but were confined to the parking deck itself. Many of the RA’s were nervous and agitated with students who wanted to get close for pictures. The officials were also pushy. As students began to disperse, one student walked by talking to her mom on the phone. As she approached, she hung up and allowed me to interview her. Her name is Jade Andrews and she lives on the fourth floor of Cobb directly across from the fire. She said that the, “fire and smoke did not get to her room,” but her concern was mostly for her friends around the corner. “This is so sad, I really feel bad for them.”
By the time Randy Young could be interviewed, around 6:30, many Cobb residents had headed to the library or cafeteria for dinner. “We responded quickly,” Young said. “Everyone evacuated and there have been no injuries. When questioned about stretchers that were arriving on the scene he said they were using them “as tables.” As for the fire, he said it was “contained to the attic and a lot of insulation was burned.” When informed about the story of the outage in room 410 he stated that he was “not going to speculate as to what happened, but officials will be in and out all night examining the fire by using the roof hatch which allowed us to contain the fire so quickly.”
As for the students affected by the fire, at the time of the interview Young believed there was a chance that they return to their rooms tonight, however; after conferring with students afterwards it turns out that students were being let back in twenty at a time with a chaperone to grab whatever they needed for the night. One student said, “I see a lot of kids walking down to South Campus with pillows in their hands. I feel so bad for them.”
At press time, no one could confirm how long students would be out of their rooms.
Please stay tuned for more updates.
Follow @crdaily for pics of the fire
UPDATE 9:21 A.M Several Alert Carolina emails have indicated that 380 students were displaced, but many should be able to return tonight. AS for severely affected rooms, it remains to be clear.