Fire in Kress Hall causes evacuation

By W. Morris Fierman

Residents of Kress Hall returning from various areas around campus were greeted by a swarm of firefighters and police surrounding their dormitory on the evening of March 19 after a small fire in the basement kitchen caused an evacuation of the building.

Lewisburg Fire Co. Chief Stephen Bolinsky said in an interview after the building was reopened to residents that a small grease fire in the basement kitchen caused little damage. One person was being treated for minor burns.

Eric Ulmanis ’16, who was studying with a group of friends in the common area adjacent to the basement kitchen, had begun to pack up his things after smelling something burning, expecting the fire alarm to be set off. He walked to the kitchen to see two female students, one of which was carrying a flaming pot of oil over to the sink.

“Before I could tell them not to, they turned on the water, which set off a huge explosion,” Ulmanis said.

Pouring water on a grease fire, which is caused by heating oil past the point where it will combust, causes a large and instant fireball, as the Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters” once spectacularly proved.

Chris Sorrentino ’15 was also studying in the common area when she began to smell something burning.

“There was a loud whooshing sound,” Sorrentino said. “I ran into the kitchen and there were flames rising out of the sink, up the wall and into the vent. There were also flames crawling across the ceiling. I realized that this was serious–it wasn’t a drill–and we ran out of the building.”

“The fire alarm went off 10 to 15 seconds after the explosion,” Ulmanis said. “And Public Safety was pulling up almost immediately after we were out of the building.”

Fire trucks were on the scene within minutes, though the fire had already extinguished itself, Bolinsky said.

“Thankfully we are well coordinated with the Bucknell Public Safety Department and so we were able to respond very quickly,” Bolinsky said.

The student cooking at the time of the fire declined to comment.

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