Firefighters respond to suspicious odor at Watson Hall

Published by adviser, Author: Kevin Squires - Assistant News Editor, Date: November 14, 2013
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Students wait outside in the snow as firefighters investigate a burning smell in Watson Hall.
Students wait outside in the snow as firefighters investigate a burning smell in Watson Hall.
Firefighters were called to Watson Hall last night to investigate a burning smell.
Firefighters were called to Watson Hall last night to investigate a burning smell.

Campus police and the Slippery Rock Fire Department responded to a mysterious odor, which some described as like burning rubber.

Freshman public health major Rachel Good, 18, was one of the first to respond to the scent. Noticing it after following a house council meeting, Good, along with Amber Lafferty, 19, freshman exercise science major, decided to walk around their floor and investigate. Not finding source for the odor, they decided to alert the front desk.

“We decided this doesn’t smell like a good thing to be inhaling” Good said. “One of the CA’s came up and investigated and then they called the fire department.”

Shortly after, three fire trucks, an emergency response vehicle, and a police car responded and Watson Hall was under close examination. Though not evacuated, some students decided to stay at another location for the night while others stayed to and waited to know what was going on.

“They didn’t tell us to evacuate or anything. They didn’t really tell us anything,” Good said.

While unsure of what would happen, Lafferty put trust in the examination.

“The fire department, they’re trained for this. They know what they’re doing,” she said. “I am a junior firefighter at the volunteer fire department where I live so I deal with this stuff not on a daily basis, but routinely.” Carrying her experience with her, Lafferty remained calm throughout the incident and never grew too concerned.

After over an hour of uncertainty, police officers and firefighters left the building, giving no answers to students besides the assumption that nothing was found. Dr. Robert Watson, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs, provided answers.

“I talked to the fire chief, he’s satisfied that there’s nothing active,” Watson said. “They took their heat guns in to every hall and scanned every hall and every wall and every ceiling and they got nothing warmer than 98.6.”

While a cause was not found, Watson put faith in the fire detection systems present in the residential suites.

“This fire detection systems a very sensitive system and if it goes off that’s the real deal at least to get students out,” Watson said.

The system never detected anything and the fire fighters did not pick up anything with their heat guns, according to Watson.

“We do not believe there is a fire in the wall or something active in the wall. We think maybe something like a rubber belt or something like that may have caused the odor, but we’re certainly going to be alert to it.”

Watson advised students to go about their normal business in the residence hall.

Additional reporting on this story was done by Katie Ellis.

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