Slippery Rock Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Team, as well as fire departments from the surrounding area, responded to a fire alarm and reports of smoke in Patterson Hall late Tuesday evening. Everyone in the building was evacuated and accounted for.
According to Ryan Hanchosky, Chief of Slippery Rock Volunteer Fire Company, “There were no visible flames, just a strong smell of burning, and a haze of smoke on the second, first and basement divisions of Patterson Hall.”
SRU student Caitlin Dunn had been in the building for around an hour and a half when she and her friends evacuated after hearing the fire alarm. Dunn stated that when she arrived “all the stairwells were very hot and had kind of a gassy smell.” After she left the building, Dunn said that SRU police officers informed her that they believed an air compressor belt caused the alarm to go off.
After arriving at Patterson Hall, the Slippery Rock Fire Company was unable to determine where smoke had initially triggered an alarm, as the alarm panel had been reset by the SRU Police Department officer who first arrived on scene. “We weren’t able to figure out what alarm was actually activated to get an accurate location of the device that went off. They should not have reset it with that much smoke already being visible,” Hanchosky said.
Despite not having access to the information from the alarm, Hanchosky had an idea where the smoke originated. He speculated, “I believe it was an air duct unit that burnt a belt, causing it to force a haze through those air ducts.”
Caitlyn Windhorst, the student worker on duty when the alarm went off, said she had the responsibility of ensuring students were safely evacuated. While student workers are usually in academic buildings to clear out students at closing time, Windhorst suddenly found herself in a situation that required much more than that. “We do anything else [SRUPD] asks us to, like escorts, assistance and stuff like this,” Windhorst said.
Many students heard a large number of fire trucks called into action as they approached campus. According to Hanchosky, numerous local departments came to their aid. “Our initial call was Slippery Rock Fire Company, Unionville, Harrisville, Prospect, Union Station, 77 Springfield out of Mercer County and 95 Grove City out of Mercer County.”
Hanchosky said this was typical for a call on SRU’s campus due to the different circumstances of a campus fire. “For the university, we have things set up a little bit different. With larger buildings, we utilize more latter trucks for these types of incidents. So with this one, we had 3 latter trucks coming from various departments,” Hanchosky elaborated.
Slippery Rock Fire Company used one of their trucks to examine the air duct units on the roof to see if they could pinpoint the origin of the smoke but were unsuccessful. As the fire trucks left the scene at Patterson Hall, Matinee crew was on their way to look at the ducts and attempt to resolve the situation.
When asked about the incident SRUPD declined to comment.