The fire was started by cooking that was left unattended in one of the kitchens in the block. Gareth Dybiec, James College JCRC Chair, reported that the fire occurred because “a bit of toast got stuck in the toaster”.
Several fire brigades from the North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service and Security and Fire Safety staff were on the scene promptly to deal with the accident. Students were evacuated from the building to a safe location once the fire alarms went off.
The kitchen has been left considerably damaged, but the fire was contained and nobody was hurt in the incident.
A second year Politics student told Nouse: “I was walking towards James College when I noticed a considerable amount of smoke surrounding the student accommodation. When I got closer to the building it looked like it was coming from the ground floor. People who seemed to have been evacuated were stood around the building. Soon enough there were three fire engines on hand and lots of security staff were there too.
“I just hoped that everyone was okay, but it seems that no one was injured. It is scary though how a fire can so easily start.”
12 students from the block were rehoused for the weekend to deal with the damages and to ensure the safety of the students in the building once they returned.
Dr David Duncan, Registrar and Secretary of the University has said: “It is a salutary warning for everyone on campus about fire safety and in particular the importance of not leaving cooking unattended.”
Mike Britland, Assistant Head of James College thanked the staff and students: “I’d like to thank everyone concerned, in particular North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service and our campus Security and Fire and Safety staff for their quick response and effective action. I’d also like to thank all the students concerned, who have been very patient while we dealt with the emergency.”
A major fire took place in the Chemistry Department in 2012 in which 400 people were evacuated and 11 fire engines were called to the scene. An investigation confirmed that the fire did not originate from the activities of Chemistry staff or students or from University equipment inside the building.
In January this year an unfinished laboratory at the University of Nottingham burnt down in a fire caused by an electrical fault. As the building was 70 per cent finished there were no fire doors or windows, allowing the fire to spread.
A fire was also caused by unattended cooking in student accommodation in Bristol city centre last month when a pan of oil was left over heat in the kitchen. Four fire engines were called to the blaze which damaged the fifth floor of the building and ripped through the roof.
Nobody was hurt but 100 students had to be rehoused and the street that the building was on was out of bounds for the rest of the week after the fire took place.
Each year all students who are living in on-campus accommodation at the University of York are required to attend a fire safety talk at the beginning of the year.
Advice is given on not cooking when under the influence of alcohol, keeping electric heaters in bedrooms and restrictions on lighting candles. The University will continue to give these fire safety talks, with this incident in mind in the future.
The North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service have provided safety information on preventing fires in the kitchen.
This includes not putting anything metal in the microwave, keeping soft items such as tea towels away from cookers and toasters, and ensuring that ovens and hobs are not allowed to build up grease between cooking.