Fire at Pioneer Hall ruled accidental

Jerret Raffety

Two or three power strips caused a fire in the south side of Pioneer Hall in room 467 on Friday, according to Minneapolis Fire Department reports.

The power strips were overloaded with extension cords and multiplug adaptors.

The cause of the fire has been ruled as accidental, said Ulie Seal, Minneapolis Fire Department assistant fire chief.

No one was injured in the fire, said Lisa Schulte, a Housing and Residential Life assistant director.

The three occupants of the burned room have been relocated to other residence hall rooms, which will most likely be permanent, she said.

“We needed to get students out of that space so they can get back to school,” Schulte said.

Housing and Residential Life has not disciplined anyone for the fire yet, she said.

“If an overloading of a power strip was directly responsible for the fire, that could be a violation of residence hall policy,” she said. “We can’t go checking how many power strips and extension cords our residents are using every day – that should be a matter of common sense.”

A resident can face up to 13 disciplinary actions as a result of an infraction of residence hall policies, said Susan Stubblefield, a Housing and Residential Life assistant director.

The University has billed students in the past for fire damage to residence halls and University apartments, whether accidental or purposeful, she said.

The cost of the damage in Friday’s fire was estimated at $151,000, reports stated.

Residents notice fire

At approximately 11:20 p.m. Friday, Ty Stafford, a community adviser for the fourth floor of Pioneer Hall, noticed the smell of smoke.

In the hallway, he saw smoke spilling out from under the door of a room.

Stafford said he immediately called 911.

The fire alarm went off at 11:31 p.m., the report stated.

“Some residents don’t want to leave when the fire alarm goes off, so I had to go running from room to room, telling everyone to evacuate,” Stafford said. All of Pioneer Hall was evacuated, he said.

Luckily, there was no one in the room when the fire started, Stafford said.

The sprinkler system extinguished the fire, reports stated.

Nick Zapushek, a College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences sophomore, lives around the corner from the room where the fire started. He said that he wasn’t inclined to leave until he smelled smoke.

“I knew it wasn’t popcorn burning or something like that,” Zapushek said. “It smelled like wood burning or a fire.”

The water damage to Pioneer Hall was extensive, the report said.

Stafford said the water leaked into two or three rooms down the hall from room 467 and destroyed three or four computers.

Kyle Triska, a first-year College of Liberal Arts student, lives on the third floor of Pioneer Hall, directly below the burned room.

He was not there when the fire happened, but water leaked into his room through panels and lighting fixtures in the ceiling. The water leaked onto bed sheets and some binders and papers on his roommate’s desk.

“I get home Saturday night, and it smells like tar in the hallway, and my roommate has laid all his papers out to dry,” Triska said.

Some rooms closer to the stairs received worse water damage.

Gabe Ganser, a CLA sophomore who lives on the third floor near a staircase, found standing water in his room after it rushed down the stairs from the fourth floor.

He said that aside from the mess, two school books were damaged.

Avoiding electrical fires

Seal said people can reduce the risk of fires from electrical outlets by following a few simple rules.

Consumers should always follow the manufacturer’s recommended wattage for power strips, Seal said. They should never use extension cords to power anything more than one day in a row. Consumers should also never use multiplug adaptors, he said.