Northern Illinois University

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News Release

Contact: Joe King, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-4299

August 17, 2009

Damage minimal in NIU fire

DeKalb, Ill. — Maintenance crews at Northern Illinois University on Monday were cleaning a room damaged by a Sunday evening cooking fire that forced evacuation of the Stevenson Towers residence hall complex.

The fire alarms in the building at 420 W. Stadium Drive were activated at 8:20 p.m. when building staff were notified of a blaze in a room on the ninth floor. As occupants of the complex evacuated, one member of the building staff attempted to douse the fire with a chemical fire extinguisher. A University Police officer responding to the alarm also attempted to knock down the flames with a fire extinguisher. When those efforts failed, the door of the room was closed to ensure that the fire was contained.

Firefighters from the DeKalb Fire Department were on the scene by 8:23 p.m. and declared the blaze extinguished approximately 15 minutes later. Most residents of the building were allowed to return around 10:30 p.m.

Upon investigation, firefighters concluded that the blaze was caused when a resident attempted to re-heat soup in a container that was not microwave safe, said DeKalb Fire Chief Bruce Harrison. When the container melted it caught fire and the flames spread to the appliance – a combination microwave/refrigerator unit.

The flames were mostly contained to the microwave unit, said Harrison, who estimated total damage from the fire at around $5,000. Most of that amount is attributable to damage to electronics from the chemical fire suppressant, Harrison said.

The occupant of the room was moved to temporary quarters elsewhere in the Stevenson complex while the room is cleaned and repainted. He is expected to return next week, said Michael Stang, NIU executive director of Housing and Dining.

Two members of the hall staff suffered minor injuries in the incident. One was cut while shattering the protective glass covering the fire alarm and the second experienced mild smoke inhalation. Both were treated at the scene and refused transport to the hospital.

“We were pleased with the way our staff responded. They followed all of the protocols and ensured the safety of everyone in the building,” Stang said, adding that fewer than 50 people were in the complex at the time of the fire.

The 13-story, four-tower complex can house up to 1,300 students. The official opening day for NIU residence halls is Thursday, when approximately 3,000 students are expected to move in.

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