Third floor Brown residents could begin to move back into their rooms as soon as Monday.
Residents of the third floor of Brown have been unable to stay in their rooms since a fire Thursday night spread smoke and soot across the entire floor. A final determination as to whether third floor residents will be able to move in will be made Monday morning by Housing, Dining and Residence Life staff in coordination with those working to clean up and repair the floor, Associate Dean for East Campus LB Bergene wrote in an email Sunday. Bergene wrote that second floor residents displaced due to water damage may not be able to return at the same time as third floor residents. Cleanup efforts including air filtration will continue after students have moved back into their rooms.
“Tomorrow morning, HDRL is meeting with [the Occupational and Environmental Safety Office], AfterDisaster, [Facilities and Management] and a few others to assess the situation," Bergene said. "Once OESO gives the okay, I will be notifying the residents that they can return to the building."
The only room that will remain closed once students are given the go ahead to move in is room 302, where the fire started, Bergene wrote. The rooms adjacent to 302 did sustain damage when firefighters broke into the rooms to see if the fire had spread, and one of the rooms also has a door connecting it with room 302 which was damaged. The doors and locks in those rooms, however, have been replaced and the residents of those rooms will be allowed to move in at the same time as the rest of the floor.
Room 302 has been sealed off by the fire marshal until renovations begin, Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta wrote in an email. Bergene wrote that measures have been taken to limit air movement into and out of room 302.
“The disaster teams and OESO are assessing the room as well to come up with the best approach to keep that space isolated,” Bergene wrote. “We'll open it back up over spring break to begin the work to restore that room but precautionary measures will be taken by those work teams.”
The results of an investigation to determine the cause of the fire are expected by Monday, Dean for Residential Life Joe Gonzalez said in a meeting with Brown Residents on Friday.
Officials believe the fire started because a backpack leaning against a radiator combusted into flames, according to a Duke News article. The fire was confined to the room because the student closed the door.
Manda Hufstedler, a freshman resident of Brown’s third floor, said that her room and its contents, down the hall from 302, were covered in a thin layer of soot when she entered it Thursday evening to retrieve her belongings after the fire.
“It wasn’t like it changed the color of things but when we touched things our hands would turn black,” Hufstedler said. “I wiped my laptop off and my entire hand was grayish.”
Morgan Irons, Hufstedler’s roommate, added that there was a strong acrid smell on the third floor when she went up to her room on Thursday after the fire.
“Walking up the stairs and into the hallway it smelled really bad,” Irons said. “Even though we couldn’t see any smoke it smelled like the air was thick with smoke.”
Both Irons and Hufstedler said that they felt lightheaded and nauseous when they went up to the third floor and both felt sick the next day.
“We both didn’t have an appetite and were nauseous and dizzy all day,” Hufstedler said.
When third floor residents went back up to their rooms Friday morning to retrieve more belongings, they were given gloves, hard hats and respiration masks to wear.
A Duke Today article published Sunday stated that air samples taken shortly after the fire was extinguished tested negative for asbestos and did not indicate a significant risk of lead exposure.
Hufstedler and Irons both said that none of their property was damaged by the soot or smoke. Bergene wrote that she is not aware of any property damage outside of the room where the fire originated.