When Sarah Cretal decided to hang out with friends in Andreas lobby last Thursday night, she didn’t think that she would leave the building 30 minutes later because of a fire and then be forced to find a new room for the weekend. But that’s what happened when a golf cart parked outside of Andreas caught fire.
Last Thursday, Feb. 5, at approximately 9:45 p.m., a Covenant College Safety & Security golf cart parked outside of Andreas lobby caught fire. Micah Turner was on shuttle duty when the fire occurred, but has not been available for comment on the fire’s cause. Matt Owens pulled the fire alarm at 9:50, and the West Brow Fire Department arrived by about 10:00 p.m.
“Almost as soon as I saw the fire, Sarah Withers comes sprinting past and starts banging on Chris Stern’s door,” Cretal says. “Then Chris, Matt, and Micah went at it with fire extinguishers.”
Chris Stern, Resident Director of Andreas, said Sunday that the fire department arrived on site in exactly 9 minutes and that the fire was completely extinguished five minutes afterwards. After the fire is out, he said, protocol requires the firemen to go into every room to make sure there are no fires and no smoke.
Students in the building at the time of the fire were evacuated to the chapel and then released after everyone was accounted for. “The evacuation went like clockwork. Everyone exited just the way they were asked to,” said Stern. “It was a great collaborative effort from the building.”
Only minor damage to the building was done, including blackened brick siding and five broken windows.
But if students thought that the craziness caused by the fire would end when the flames died out, they were wrong. Since the night of the fire, life for Andreas residents has only gotten more crazy.
Dean of Students Brad Voyles told Andreas students in an email on Friday afternoon that the school has hired Nivek, a remediation service, to clean the building. School administration estimates that it will take approximately a week for the building to be thoroughly cleaned.
In that same email, Voyles announced that all 111 students housed in the building would be asked to move out hall by hall for three days each while cleaning took place. Fourth floor halls—The Fritz and Imani—were expected to leave only hours after the email was sent in order to allow cleaning to begin immediately. Ithaca and Bloodfield were also asked to leave earlier than planned when cleaning moved ahead of schedule Sunday night.
“It was crazy,” said Ann Ferris Caston of The Fritz. “The Internet was out, so I hadn’t even seen the email yet. My suitemate comes into my room and told me I had to be out by 11:30 p.m. It was jarring.”
Students have been asked not to park in the Andreas parking lot. Furthermore, the Internet in the building is still disconnected at the time of this writing. But Caston said that she finds redemption in all the chaos:
“It makes me feel compassion for the homeless. Or those persecuted for their faith, living on the run and leaving everything behind. That would be horrible—and this is only three days.”
Covenant administration hired professional cleaners to wash any clothes, bed sheets, and rugs that students needed cleaned. The residence staff distributed trash bags, and by Friday night laundry-filled bags lined the halls to be taken away.
Andreas residence staff were very intentional in their efforts to make sure that each student had a place to stay. Chris Stern sent an email to students expressing clearly that “We have several open rooms across campus and enough open beds so that no one will have to sleep on the floor.”
Once cleaning began on each hall, students were not permitted to return to their rooms until Nivek finished cleaning the hall.
All halls were originally expected to be able to return to their rooms by Wednesday, and cleaning was slotted to take no more than a week. Since that time, however, Stern has said that the timeline to bring the building back to full function is more ambiguous than originally thought, because of “Nivek’s hard work to do this thoroughly.”