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All but 19 rooms at Mason Hall are now habitable after a fire Friday evening forced students to evacuate from the University of Mary Washington dormitory.
BY CATHY JETT
All but 38 University of Mary Washington students living in Mason Hall were able to return to their dorm rooms Sunday morning after being evacuated Friday night due to a fire.
Nineteen rooms in the recently renovated upperclassman dorm still had a high moisture content due to the water firefighters used to douse the blaze and from the sprinkler system, UMW spokeswoman Marty Morrison said Sunday.
"Most all will be able to return within the next day or two," she said. "In rooms with only cosmetic damage, students will be allowed to move back into the rooms, and repairs will be made during Thanksgiving and winter break. The students in the room that incurred the fire damage will need to be relocated."
The fire, which was confined to room 506, began when a coffee maker there malfunctioned, according to Deputy Chief Mike Jones of the Fredericksburg Fire Department. The students who live there weren't in the room.
No one was injured when the fire broke out, but about 40 rooms had damage, Morrison said. It was mainly caused by water, which left walls, carpets and belongings sopping.
UMW does not have an estimate of the cost to repair the damage, but it will be covered by the university's insurance, Morrison said. Like all public higher education institutions in Virginia, it is self-insured through the state.
According to Jones, university police contacted Fredericksburg Emergency Communications at 7:18 p.m. Friday and said that a fire alarm was sounding in Mason. The call was upgraded to a structure fire when the smoke alarm activated.
Firefighters didn't see smoke outside the building, but they smelled a burning odor as they approached the fifth floor, he said. They doused the fire just as heat from the blaze activated the sprinkler system.
"We got it shut down as soon as we could and assisted UMW in removing the water and then turned it over to them," Jones said in a press release.
Fire and rescue personnel opened windows and turned on fans to get the smoke out of the building. They searched the building to make sure everyone had gotten out, he said.
The fire "was quickly controlled due in large part to the activation of the fire/smoke detection system that was improved following the recent renovations to that building," Jones said.
University officials evacuated students from Mason and Randolph halls and the connecting residence area called The Link until the fire was out. Residents of Randolph and The Link were allowed to return to their rooms Friday night, but 159 students living in Mason had to relocate temporarily because of the wet conditions.
They stayed with friends, local family and in other spaces on campus, and were allowed back in the building for two hours Saturday morning to collect their things.
Restoration and cleanup crews worked through the night Friday and into Saturday to repair damage, Morrison said.
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407