Fire extinguished in Balch Hall after students evacuate dorm on a frigid night

February 7, 2014

Ithaca firefighters were able to extinguish a fire in Cornell University's Balch Hall, after a fire alarm and a passerby spotting flames coming from a third-floor window alerted residents to the fire. The person walking by called 911 just before 1am upon seeing the flames.

Firefighters on scene at Balch Hall at Cornell. Photo courtesy of IFD.Firefighters on scene at Balch Hall at Cornell. Photo courtesy of IFD.First responders from Cornell's office of Environmental Health & Safety found smoke and fire in a third-floor room in North Balch, and began evacuating the student residents. Ithaca firefighters arrived on the scene and extinguished the fire, which was contained to one dorm room.

Firefighters and Cornell personnel then worked to clear heavy smoke from the building and checked that all students were out and accounted for. One student was offered transport to Cayuga Medical Center for treatment of smoke inhalation by Bangs Ambulance personnel, but declined. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Some of the students evacuated sought refuge in nearby buildings rather than remain outdoors in the near-zero-degree temperatures. "Students went and stayed with friends or sat in running vehicles to stay warm," says Lt. Thomas T. Basher Jr., Ithaca Fire Department public information officer. After crews cleared the smoke, "Most students returned to their rooms, other than the one damaged by fire," Basher tells us.

Karen Muckstadt of Student and Academic Services at Cornell says a suite in another residence hall was made available to the occupants of the room damaged by the fire, which was not inhabitable overnight. All other rooms in the building were safe to reoccupy. Balch Hall is Cornell's traditionally all-women residence hall, opened in 1929 as one of three at the time. 

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