Boston University residents at 575 Commonwealth Ave. were evacuated twice as a result of two separate fires on the dormitory’s fifth floor Sunday night and early Monday morning.
“The [first] call came in at 10:19 p.m.,” said Steve MacDonald, spokesman for the Boston Fire Department. “The cause of the fire was an overheated laptop. It generated a small fire with a large amount of smoke …The [department] chief gave a total dollar loss of $10,000, and there were no injuries.”
MacDonald said the second call came in at 3:07 a.m. due to a trashcan fire that caused no injuries. There was no official damage cost, but he estimated it to be much lower than the first fire.
“What usually happens in these cases is the smoke is the biggest problem,” he said. “The entire floor could need to get professionally cleaned, but apart from that, the only damage is usually to the trash can, which is much easier to replace.”
In both cases, residents at the former Howard Johnson Hotel were evacuated onto the street until firefighters determined entry was safe and a sufficient investigation had been completed. There have not yet been any official findings as to whether the second fire was deliberate, and BU spokesman Colin Riley said no assumptions should be made.
“The only way to know if it was is to wait until they [firefighters] investigate, but it likely could just have been someone throwing a cigarette in there that smoldered and lit,” he said.
Both fires were put out when firefighters arrived, and no other students were displaced except those in the affected room, which is a triple on the western side of the building.
Residents of the dorm complex said they had differing reactions to the fires.
Daniel Phillips, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore who lives on the fifth floor, said the night was chaotic, but was handled well by residence authorities.
“With how smoky it was, people figured out pretty quick that it was a real fire,” he said. “Our building manager did a good job of getting everyone out. He was at the building on our hallway making sure all the rooms got out … I don’t think anyone ever thought it was a drill.”
Tessa Lynch-Colameta, a CAS sophomore living in HoJo, said residents were organized in their evacuation.
“Everyone seemed really calm during both fires, but I know that by the second one, it was so late, most of us were so tired, we didn’t even care what was going on,” she said. “Since I live on the third floor, I figured because it wasn’t a huge fire my room would be fine, so I wasn’t panicked … But also, our building’s made out of cement, so I figured the whole thing wouldn’t burn to the ground.”
Luke Walsh, a CAS sophomore who lives on the fourth floor, said he noticed discontent in residents because firefighters could not give full details as to what was happening.
“A lot of us didn’t really know what was going on, and they wouldn’t tell us anything, which I think was a problem in itself,” he said. “Some people were not prepared to be out in the cold, and I felt even worse for them, but they didn’t open Franklin Lounge [in the Towers Residence] to us for about 30 minutes. Until that point, we just had to stand around trying to figure it out.”
Rachel Riley contributed to the reporting of this article.