Sutherland fire keeps students out in the cold

By Amy Friedenberger

Freshman Marty Roberts was getting ready for bed a little after 2 a.m. Monday morning when he… Freshman Marty Roberts was getting ready for bed a little after 2 a.m. Monday morning when he heard a loud pop and the sound of rushing water.

He walked over to his door to look out the peephole. Roberts lives in Room E813, perpendicular to the trash room on the eighth floor of Sutherland Hall East.

“At first I thought that someone was showering in there, because that would have been really weird,” Roberts said later.

Roberts saw smoke and water spewing out of the top of the door. The fire alarm started going off.

“Uh, we have to go,” Roberts told his roommate, realizing that it wasn’t a fire drill.

The small fire brought the city fire department, Pitt police and city police. Students evacuated into the cold night where they stayed for about an hour until they could re-enter. More than a dozen rooms had water damage from the incident, across several floors.

“I wasn’t really scared or anything,” Roberts said. “After I saw the smoke and water, I thought a waterline must have broke.”

Pitt spokesman John Fedele said in an e-mail that a burning bag of popcorn discarded into a trash can caused the fire. No residents reported any injuries.  The small fire triggered the sprinkler system in the trash room and the stairwell, sending water into several rooms on the eighth floor down to the fifth. No sprinklers went off in the individual dorm rooms.

Fedele said that fire itself did not cause any damages, and the water damages from the sprinklers appeared to be minimal. Maintenance workers scattered powerful fans throughout the fifth to eighth floors in the eastern wing of Sutherland to dry the carpets, which are scheduled to be shampooed today.

Sutherland is a primarily freshman dorm that houses more than 730 men and women on upper campus. Freshman Bethany Hepinger is one of two students who spent the rest of Monday night in the Holiday Inn on Lytton Avenue. She lives in E824, part of a suite.

Hepinger said she was asleep when the alarm went off.

“My roommate and I actually thought it was one of our phones going off, until the voice on the alarm started speaking,” Hepinger said.

She returned back to her room around 11 a.m. She said her room had about three inches of water covering the floor that had flowed down the hall into her room. The water ruined her books, shoes, purses and many other items on the floor.

Pitt’s residential handbook said that students are responsible for having insurance on their personal property.

Freshmen Anne Faust and Alyson Smola live in room E513 on the fifth floor. The two students were about to go to sleep before they heard people running around outside the door.

When they opened the door to see what was going on, they saw water pouring down through the stairwell as students ran down the stairs. They opted to take the stairwell on the western part of Sutherland.

Faust and Smola said that water just dripped down the side of the wall as it leaked from the floors above. None of their items were ruined.

“I just feel really sorry for the people who got stuff ruined over a bag of burnt popcorn,” Faust said.