A fire in Exec House around 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning forced students from their warm bedrooms and out into the cold. Many students groaned at having to leave the building, but once they were in the hallway, the smoke indicated that there was a good reason for vacating the premises.
A decorative wreath hanging from a door on the second level of the apartment had caught on fire. The wreath did not have any electrical devices attached to it when the flames broke out. It burned on the door before falling to the ground and burning the carpet.
“It would appear that any fire in that wreath would have been purposefully set. However, the source of that is unknown,” said Director of Campus Safety John Schlaf. “An event like this underscores the reason why we feel like we need to take the fire alarms seriously.”
“It was such a weird thing because you are so used to fire alarms at Knox,” said junior Katie Johnston, whose apartment door was burned by the fire. “[My apartment mate and I] both groaned. Somebody must have burnt popcorn or something. She went to the door and was like […]it’s a real fire,” said Johnston.
Johnston also said that she and another girl living in the apartment were both about ready to go to bed when the alarm went off. They got ready to go outside and when their door was opened, Johnston could see glowing from the fire on the other side.
“While it was happening, it was like time was slowing down,” said Johnston. “I just flailed around uselessly, forgetting every fire safety rule.”
While the girl with Johnston went to get water, another individual grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the flames. Schlaf said this individual was an RA and used her training to respond appropriately.
Both Campus Safety officers and the Galesburg Fire Department responded to the scene. The material left on in Johnston’s apartment from the fire extinguisher was cleaned later that night.
“It smelled like camp fires in our room for the rest of the night,” said Johnston. She was, however, able to get to sleep and is not worried about such an event happening again. “It’s such a rare thing. It was so unexpected,” she said.
Since then, Campus Safety officers have returned to the building in order to inspect the scene and conduct an investigation of what happened. Currently, the investigation is still ongoing.