Fire in Townhouse East

Make sure to double-check or even double back to make sure you really did turn off the stove or if you really did leave something plugged in that you should not have.

On Monday, Jan. 24, a little past 6 p.m., a fire in Concordia College’s east townhouse complex led to evacuation. According to Andie Kassenborg, building manager of the townhouses, a heated blanket was the culprit. 

“They left it unattended—they left the apartment—and it sparked, setting the couch on fire,” said Kassenborg.

The fire eventually set off the whole building’s fire alarms and the individual unit’s sprinkler system. All residents evacuated safely.

When one unit’s smoke detector detects enough smoke, all fire alarms go off. The building’s sprinkler system only activates in an individual unit when it detects enough smoke there. Thankfully for less-skilled cooks among the townhouse population, the threshold to trigger the sprinklers system is much higher than to trigger the fire alarms, said Kassenborg.

The fire department is alerted every time the townhouse fire alarms go off, and three fire trucks arrived on the scene. Since the affected unit’s residents were not there, the firefighters had some initial trouble entering the unit. Fortunately, the sprinklers had successfully put out the fire according to Mikal Kenfield, director of residence life.

Townhouse residents could breathe a sigh of relief, but one they would see in the cold January air. The building’s sprinkler system could not get reactivated right away, and they would not be allowed to reenter until that happened. Residents were left with nothing but the clothes on their backs and whatever they happened to grab on their way out.  

With temperatures below zero and the wind howling, the displaced townhouse residents scrambled to figure out where they would hunker down until allowed to return. Kassenborg said she was prepared to put up two friends in her townhouse who “might stay the night.”

Claire Mohr, a townhouse resident, said she drove to a friend’s apartment “as I found out more and tried to think of where I could stay if I needed to.”

The sprinkler system was reactivated two hours later, and all but the four residents of townhouse 114E were allowed to return. 

“The individual townhouse unit sustained both smoke damage from the fire, as well as water damage from the sprinklers that successfully put out the fire,” said Kenfield. “Residents in 114 are getting set up with temp housing for tonight.” 

Residence life is working with the occupants of 114E to find them a more permanent living situation for the rest of the semester, according to Kenfield.

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