Smoking incident causes fire in Spaulding 1

On May 2, 2013

  • Flames were seen coming from the fourth floor of Spaulding Building 1 on Thursday night. This photo was taken from one of the Spaulding towers. Courtesy of Michael McTarnaghan, via Twitter
  • Three local fire companies -- Getzville, North Bailey and Ellicott Creek -- responded to the 9-1-1 calls. This was the scene at approximately 7 p.m. after teh flames were put out. Rebecca Bratek, The Spectrum
  • The fire started on the fourth floor of Spaulding Building 1. The flames were out by the time The Spectrum arrived on the scene. The residents escaped through their window, climbing from ledge to ledge, according to Maggie Leclair, a freshman who witnessed the fire from her room in Spaulding 7. Brian Keschinger, The Spectrum

Flames broke out in a Spaulding Building 1, fourth floor dorm room at approximately 6 p.m. on Thursday. The fire was caused by a "careless smoking incident," according to University Police Chief Gerald Schoenele. The cause remains under investigation.

Two students who inhabited the room were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, he said. Schoenele does not know the full extent of the injuries, but the students walked to the ambulance of their own accord, he said.

The two students escaped the flames by jumping out of their fourth-floor window onto the ledge beneath it, according to Maggie Leclair, a freshman geological sciences major. The students crossed over into the room next door by spanning across the ledges, she said.

The fire was knocked down quickly and there will only be damage to the source room, according to Schoenle. Incidental damage from heat and smoke may affect the rest of the fourth floor, he said.

Leclair lives in Spaulding Building 7, just across the terrace, and she was on the phone with her mother when she looked out the window to see the residents jump out.

"They have a little cement ledge right outside their window, so they jumped out their window onto that ledge," she said. "Except they didn't even open the screen of their window; they broke the screen jumping through it. They were all screaming, 'Call 9-1-1. There's a fire.' And at first you didn't see anything, and then the whole thing like exploded in flames - not the entire building, but just that dorm room exploded in flames and there were flames coming out the window."

About two minutes after the residents jumped out of the window, the building's fire alarms went off, according to Leclair. All of Spaulding - buildings one through seven - was evacuated and students were taken to the Richmond Locked Lounge, she said.

Three local fire companies responded to the 9-1-1 call - Getzville, North Bailey and Ellicott Creek. The Getzville fire chief was in charge of the scene, according to Schoenle.

Environmental Health and Safety officials were on the scene and investigating the damage to the building. Residents of the first three floors of Spaulding 1 will be able to go back to their rooms this evening, according to Schoenle. Only about a dozen residents from the fourth floor will be displaced to other Ellicott Complex spaces for the night, he said.

UB Alert sent out a message at 7:01 p.m., one hour after initial alarms went off and 9-1-1 calls were placed. The alert said the fire was under control and advised students to stay away until further notice.

Smoking is prohibited in the dorms, and Schoenle hopes to have the case solved within the next few hours.


Additional reporting by Staff Writer Tong Meng



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