Two separate fires broke out on campus last week. The first occurred in a study bedroom in Heronbank halls of residence early in the morning of 11 June, and caused considerable damage. The second was a small electrical fire in the Rootes launderette on 12 June.
The Heronbank fire, which occurred in a ground floor postgraduate study bedroom, required the evacuation of the entire block for more than an hour while the fire service tackled the blaze.
Nobody was injured, though the room was “completely destroyed,” said University spokesman Peter Dunn. The fire was successfully contained to the bedroom, and adjoining rooms were not affected.
The fire service received the call to Heronbank at 12:45am on 11 June. Two fire appliances were sent to the scene, and “when [the crews] entered the room, the mattress and bedding were well alight. The firefighters had to wear breathing apparatus, and all three floors of the building were smokelogged. We did have to use ventilation equipment to clear [the smoke],” said Lindsey Preece, a West Midlands Fire Service spokesperson.
One Heronbank student described the fire: “We were woken up at about 12.30am by the fire alarm. Loads of people just thought it was a drill so people kept coming out of their rooms really late. A few people stayed inside even when the smoke was really bad. Smoke was pouring out of all of the floors – it was really dramatic.
“At one point the fire crew started to throw smoking debris out of the window. It smelt really acrid and the smoke was pretty black.”
Although Dunn said the University is investigating the cause of the fire, and repairs to the building will not begin until after the investigation, Preece told the Boar that “it was quite apparent they’d been smoking in the room,” adding that “the smoke alarm had been covered with a sock and polythene bag”.
The fire service will not be conducting an investigation of its own. “From our point of view, it was quite clear what had caused it. We wouldn’t class it as criminal – it was classed as accidental dwelling fire [from] improperly discarded smoking material,” Preece said.
Multiple sources have told the Boar that the resident and his mother were smoking shisha in the bedroom when the fire started. When questioned about whether the student was smoking in the room, Dunn said only that the University is “following a very clear line of enquiry which would not contradict what you say”.
Smoking in halls of residence is forbidden in the University accommodation contract, and Dunn said that “should there be any suggestion that they were responsible, a major disciplinary process would follow”.
The second fire occurred in a tumble dryer in the Rootes launderette on 12 June at around 5pm. One fire crew responded, switched off the building’s gas and electricity, and used a single hose line to extinguish the fire. The cause was identified as an electrical fault within the machine. The launderette was closed from Sunday evening to Tuesday afternoon for repairs.