Derwent fire poses threat to life in the early hours

A FIRE BROKE out in Derwent during the early hours of Tuesday morning, causing “severe” damage to a kitchen in B Block.

The fire was discovered by a Derwent Porter, who “fought the fire bravely”, at around 2am. The Fire Rescue Service, who arrived shortly afterwards and entered the building using protective breathing equipment, had completely extinguished the fire and ventilated the building within 20 minutes.

One member of University staff who cannot be named said that he suspected the fire had been started either as an act of vandalism or when burning food from the cooking appliances, all of which were on when the fire was discovered, was thrown into the bin. He said that if the culprit did not come forward, the whole floor would be charged for the cost of repair.
However, the five resident users of the kitchen, who wished to remain anonymous, claim to have cooked together on the evening of the fire, turned all the kitchen appliances off and gone out as a group, not returning until after the fire had been dealt with.

Carol Nicholson, the Facilities Manager for Derwent, expressed relief that the fire door had been closed when the fire broke out. She said “the fire door saved lives and saved the building” adding that, had it been left open, “half [the building] would have gone I’m sure”.

However, an email sent on Wednesday by the provost Ron Weir to Derwent students warning them of the risk of fire stated that on a routine tour of Derwent on Tuesday evening, the duty porter found 14 fire doors left open, some held back by fire extinguishers.

Steve Durrant, a first year B Block Resident, was not in his room at the time of the fire, but suggested that it was probably caused by “a cigarette or something like that”.

A Fire Control Operator from the North Yorkshire Fire Rescue Service said the fire had caused “severe fire damage to the plastic waste bin and its contents, severe smoke damage to the kitchen, and moderate smoke damage to the corridor, first floor stairs and second floor stairs”. He said that the suspected cause of the fire was “50% smokers’ materials; 50% unknown”.

Nicholson was unwilling to reveal further information until she has completed a thorough investigation and produced a full report on the cause of the fire.

She said “I’m just interested in the facts”, but was keen to stress the risk to life posed by fire. She stressed that students should be vigilant and should ensure that fire doors are kept closed at all times.

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