NORFOLK, VA — Three students recount the events of the fire in Babbette Smith North Hall and the subsequent action taken as a result.
A small fire occurred in Babbette Smith North Hall, a first-year residence hall, on March 24 at 11:00 p.m. causing over 100 students to be relocated. The 10-floor residence hall’s fire was not the only one, as there was another minor fire the following morning, March 25. The fire resulted from the buildup of lint in the dryer trap leading to reduced airflow; this and the dryer’s heat created a flammable environment. The fire sprinklers responded, effectively drenching the residents’ rooms on the upper floors.
Female residents Alexis Ring and Calista Veyan stated that the residence hall had had fires days before the events of Thursday evening.
“I heard screaming and what sounded like water. When I opened my door, the hallway started filling up with smoke, and brown water was coming out of the laundry room,” Ring recounts the evening of March 24.
Following the panic and chaos of the initial evacuation, the Office of Housing and Residential Life moved students to the William P. Robinson Sr. Technology building, where they would be “evacuated and relocated to hotels” or assigned to other residence halls, including North Residential Complex on the east side of campus and Samuel Scott Hall on the west side of campus. Those residing in the hotels were commuting to the University to attend classes for the foreseeable future.
On Wednesday, March 30, students temporarily living in the hotels and residence halls were informed that the building was prepared to rehouse the displaced students. Students who were not interested in reclaiming their original rooms were told that they would have to pay “the difference” between North Residential Complex and Babbette Smith North Hall for the conclusion of the semester, said Alexis Ring.
Students moving back into Babbette Smith North Hall are now tasked with tackling the results of the moisture intervention in their rooms. On March 30, the Student Government Association released a statement on Twitter, saying in part, “Dr. J has approved for each Babbette Smith North resident to receive a $1,000 rebate to help [them] recover from [their] experience.” According to the statement, the rollout of direct deposits was slated to begin Friday, April 8. Students affected by the fire commented that the rebate is nice but not enough to cover the cost of their damaged items.
Kayla Amartey, another Babbette Smith North Hall student, stated that students had mixed reviews concerning the rebate.
“Some students were pleased with the money, while others believe it is insufficient to compensate for the fire’s damage.”
The latter reaction is a sentiment that most students agree with. Ring compares the rebate to the cost of a damaged laptop, reasoning that the rebate would not cover all areas of damage. Veyan considers a separate opinion: that the act of “dropping money on college students” is “manipulating,” instead of effectively communicating with students to handle this event.
Upon returning to the residence hall, the students recognized a significant environmental change. The elevators are no longer in service; for the time being, access to microwaves has been limited to five in the main lobby, and laundry within the building is no longer available. Students must do their laundry at Spartan Station, located across campus near Midrise Residential Honors College. The environments are consistent in each room; students returned to familiar spaces where their items were shuffled about, soaking wet, and thrown on their beds and throughout the room.
In the days following the fire, large white tubes exited the windows of several rooms in the residence hall. Campus Communication and Marketing states that the residence hall required “a professional restoration vendor” to mitigate the moisture permeation that occurred due to the sprinklers.
The Spartan Echo has contacted the Office of Housing and Residence Life but has not received a response.