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University St. fire causes evacuation of MORE house residence

Students residing in a McGill-owned MORE house were evacuated from their residence on Jan. 5 due to a fire that broke out in the three-storey apartment building next-door.

The 15 students who have been affected will not be able to return to their residence at 3601 University St. in the upcoming weeks, due to an ongoing investigation of the fire and assessment of damages, according to Janice Johnson, Managing Director of Residences Life and Customer Relations.

“Firefighters were on the roof of 3601 fighting the blaze,” Johnson explained. “They had hoses in the building to make sure that, should the fire spread, they were ready to fight it in the building.”

In taking such precautions and using the MORE house as a station for extinguishing the fire, firefighters had to break windows and a skylight, causing smoke infiltration into the residence. According to Johnson, the MORE house experienced both water and smoke damage.

“There was no fire in the building at all in 3601, but there was smoke and water damage, and people were on the roof, so we want to make sure there’s no damage to the membrane that’ll cause leakage into the building,” Johnson said.

Of the 15 students living in the MORE house this year, seven were present and had to be evacuated. Pierre Panhard, U1 Arts, had just arrived at the MORE house after returning from winter break when he saw smoke coming from an adjacent window.

“Basically when I arrived at the house I talked to a few people and they had no idea there was a fire,” Panhard said. “I had literally just arrived when the fire was smoking out of the window.”

Panhard, along with the other affected MORE students, was relocated to the Holiday Inn hotel on Sherbrooke Street. for one week before they were offered new accommodations in other residences.

“We had a meeting with one of the residence officers who basically gave us a list of residences based on where they had space on campus—so Solin, New Rez, Citadelle, and MORE houses,” Panhard explained. “Most people decided to take apartments and didn’t want to go back to residences. Four of us decided to go back to residences.”

Students who opted for apartments are not required to pay the remaining rent to McGill.

According to Johnson, initial assessments of the residence predict that it may take up to 12 weeks for the MORE House to undergo necessary repairs.

The emergency call alerting the fire was received at 2:17 p.m. on Sunday and described by Elise Breault, a communications agent at the Montreal Fire Department, as the highest classification of an assignment within a formula that is based on the amount of firemen and resources needed to fight a fire.

“The fire was typical intervention, although more firemen had to be sent on site so it was a five-alarm fire,” Breault said. “Firefighters had controlled the situation by 4:40 p.m., and the last firefighters left the scene of the fire at 10:20 p.m.”

In the process of extinguishing the fire, five firefighters sustained injuries that required medical attention. Two firefighters were treated at the scene for minor injuries, while three had to be transported to the Montreal General Hospital for more serious injuries and were discharged the following day.

As a precaution, the electricity to the surrounding area was shut off while the fire department acted on the fire. Following an inspection once the fire was extinguished, it was confirmed to have been caused by an accidental electrical fault.

Johnson encouraged students who have been affected to get in contact with services available on campus that could be of assistance, such as Student Services, Mental Health and Counselling Services, and academic advisers.

“The Student Services and Dean of Students kick into gear in a situation like this,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to support them as best we can.”

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