Samuel Boudreau

News Editor


Departments initially could not point to the source of the smoke, causing confusion among students.

In the early morning of Monday, Jan. 31, Katie Fleig ’23 noticed something off when she walked back to The College of Wooster’s Holden Hall, her dorm of residency, as she saw a “massive” amount of smoke from the Student Center construction zone. “It was so thick that when I saw people walk into it they would disappear and my immediate thought was ‘well, they’re never going to be seen again,’” said Fleig. “It was the same thing with cars.” Fleig said the smoke from the Student Center smelled like gasoline. Photos obtained by the Wooster Voice show that the smoke emerged from the Student Center by 8:50 a.m. Jackson Loop ’22, who lives in Brush Hall, initially thought it was just a foggy day. “I looked around and I was on the right side of Holden,” Loop said, “and I could not see a thing.” “It was everywhere. It was clearly surrounding all of Holden.” 

At 9:01 a.m., a smoke alarm rang in the mechanical room of Holden Hall, waking up many students. Leah Wilcox ’22 was one of those students and noticed a burning smell in the hall’s stairwell. “On my way out of the building, I noticed an odd smell in the stairwell, but I didn’t think much of it because that stairwell usually has a smell to it,” said Wilcox, who described the smell as “burnt or burning rubber.” When she evacuated the building, Wilcox said she noticed a concentration of smoke between Scheide Music Center and Holden Hall. When Fleig evacuated the building, she noticed a second source of smoke from the Holden Hall courtyard. 

After the alarm set off, a Campus Safety officer investigated the fire alarm’s cause, concluding that the smoke originated from a machine in Holden Hall’s mechanical room. However, the Wooster Fire Department then conducted a search of Holden and found no source of the smoke and cleared students to re-enter the building. After the Fire Department, the College’s Facilities Operations conducted a five-hour investigation of the entire hall. After their investigation, facilities concluded that “all mechanical systems were working properly and there were no concerns,” said Carly Jones, Housing Coordinator of Residence Life. After receiving a picture from a Holden Hall resident of the smoke, Jones followed up with Holden Hall residents on Tuesday, Feb. 1, stating, “our staff believe that, and the pictures we were sent indicate, that the smoke went towards Holden (likely through the fresh air intake, open windows and open doors) and set off the sensitive sensor in the mechanical room.” According to Taylor, “It was determined that a great deal of smoke was generated by a major equipment failure at that same time on a CAT 308 Excavator that was working on the student center project.” When asked about the machine malfunction, President of Bogner Corporation, Brian Bogner, did not comment on the malfunction and directed the Voice to Taylor for any further questions.

From her perspective, Wilcox said the explanation for the smoke “did not sit well” with her,,citing the amount of smoke between Scheide and Holden, whether other smoke alarms went off in the building, and the lack of clarity regarding the mechanical malfunction of the machine at the student center construction site. 

Fleig said she wished the College could provide more information regarding the accident. “I am disappointed in the lack of information we got about what happened both during and after,” said FIeig. “I felt really left in the dark and out of the loop as a resident of the building that was supposedly on fire even though there were two sources of smoke.”  Fleig said she wished the College could send updates on these issues via social media.

Written by

Chloe Burdette

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