The small fire in West Quad last night that triggered a full evacuation of the residence hall has been ruled an arson, officials said.
Department of Public Safety Spokeswoman Diane Brown said an arson in a residence hall is “highly unusual.”
“It was apparently intentionally set in the hallway of the lower level,” she said.
Peter Logan, spokesman for University Housing, said all residents whose rooms were not directly affected by the water damage could return very early this morning.
Twenty students in 11 rooms were displaced due to water damage, Logan said. Those rooms are, as of 3 p.m. this afternoon, still not habitable due to the water.
“We’re anticipating that most of the 11 rooms that were affected have been cleaned and will be available for occupancy this evening,” Logan said. “But if a resident in one of those rooms feels that it is too damp … we’ll work with them to find temporary lodging for the evening.”
The confusion immediately following the evacuation was compounded by an overall lack of information reaching displaced residents, according to several students outside the residence hall early Thursday morning.
West Quad resident advisor Kari Sant said that when the alarms first started ringing, people thought it was a false alarm.
“This happened two weeks ago,” she said. “And it was someone burning waffles.”
Sant said officials had told residents the event was an “actual incident” and that “everybody was asked to evacuate for the entire night.”
LSA freshman Michael Wilinski said residents weren’t informed of how long they would have to wait for the clean-up to be completed.
“We played football for a while but that got old pretty quick,” he said. “Now we’re just like ‘OK, what are we supposed to do?’
“We just wish someone would tell us what’s going on,” he said.
Engineering sophomore Keith Lamprecht expressed similar displeasure with the amount of information authorities were getting to the residents.
“They don’t really tell us a whole lot and I kind of thought they would,” he said. “They haven’t really done anything for us besides tell us to go to South Quad.”
West Quad resident and Nursing freshman Breann Eckerle was on the ninth floor of South Quad hanging out in the hallway, waiting for word on the situation in her residence hall.
She said she was passing the time by people watching, but was “tired” and getting “pissed” about the situation.
“I wish there was somewhere we could sleep,” she said.
Clean-up has been underway since the incident occurred early this morning, Brown said.
Logan said there was a delay in getting residents back in their rooms because of air quality tests.
“The fire marshall did require that we conduct an air quality test for the safety of the students because any time you have building material in a combustion it can create fumes that could be discomforting,” Logan said.
Logan said University Housing is also adding $10 in Blue Bucks to the accounts of each resident affected by the water infiltration into their rooms, to assist with laundry expense.
The residence hall’s sprinkler system quickly extinguished the small fire, Brown said.
The cafeteria in South Quad, which is directly across Madison Street from West Quad, was opened for West Quad residents during the clean-up.
Brown said the incident took place on the lowest level of the building, which usually makes it easier to contain.
Police Sergeant Michelle Chatell, who was on the scene early Thursday morning, declined to comment.
Brown said there had been some flooding on the first floor because once a sprinkler is activated, all the water in its pipes has to come down. Cleaning up that water, Brown said, usually takes a long time.
The University is offering a reward of up to $500 for information leading to the successful arrest and prosecution of the person or persons involved in the arson. Anyone with information is being asked to contact University Police at (734) 763-1131.