Senior Natasha Caudill left class in a rush on Thursday after Campus Safety came to tell her that her apartment was on fire.
“I almost stayed home on Thursday because I had been sick all week and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to go to class,’” Caudill said. “I’m glad I went to class.’ ”
Caudill, Janie Sutherd and Courtney Pletcher, seniors, lived in Apartment 1 at 151 S. West St., the building called Old Snu. There are three other apartments in the building, but Apartment 1 is where the fire started and where the most damage was. No one was injured in the fire.
Sutherd was the only one home when the fire started. When she left the building and called 911, Caudill was in class and Pletcher was leading a campus tour group.
“Me and my co-tour guide for the group, had mentioned to each other how we each smelled smoke,” Pletcher said. “We both thought, it’s fall, someone’s burning leaves. I put my hands in my coat pocket because I was chilly and I kept feeling my phone buzz.”
She checked her phone and saw a message from Sutherd asking Pletcher to come home because the apartment was on fire. When she got there the street was blocked off and the fire department had already arrived.
The fire appeared to be electrical and started in Caudill’s closet, which she said had a pull-string light and an outlet. The fire started around 10:45 a.m., with Galesburg Fire Department, Galesburg Police Department and EMTs responding.
Sutherd noticed smoke coming from Caudill’s room and called 911. Campus Safety also helped, including contacting Caudill. The landlord Jamie Bastian also came, and helped the students gather what they needed from the apartment once it was safe to go in again.
The students are now living in what was previously the Asian Cultural House, which was unoccupied this year. Both Pletcher and Caudill specifically mentioned Campus Safety and the Campus Life Office as being supportive during the fire. Director of Campus Safety Nathan Kemp even got the students hot chocolate as they gave statements and waited at their apartment after the fire was put out.
After it was safe to quickly go inside, the students grabbed a few important items. Caudill grabbed a jewelry box, a couple stuffed animals and the few clothes that had not burned.
“There’s some stuff that survived but it might just smell like smoke forever and therefore is not worth keeping,” she said.
Besides the smoke and fire damage, some items have water damage from the fire being put out.
Caudill noted some strange patterns to what was damaged and what survived. Her closet was destroyed but her passport, which was in the drawer of her bedside table, was untouched. The fan fell off the ceiling of Sutherd’s room and Pletcher noted the fire alarms looked melted but some books and stuffed animals survived.
They spent Friday and Saturday replacing what they had lost. They had a Target registry and sophomore Lily Gates started a GoFundMe, which had raised over $2,500 by Wednesday afternoon.
“People keep asking, ‘What do you need?’ and I’m like, ‘We kind of need everything,’ ” Caudill said.
All of their parents came down that weekend. The three have been surprised by the support from the people bringing them food, offering kind words or asking how they could help. Professors have been very understanding, Caudill said, but she still thinks she will likely end up dropping a class she does not need to graduate.
“I’m so appreciative and grateful for the entire Knox community,” Pletcher said. “Friends, family of other students are reaching out to help us and I don’t think that would happen to us, and the support that we’re getting we wouldn’t have received, if this happened at a larger school.”
The GoFundMe can be found at https://bit.ly/2JviBBJ.
Janie Sutherd is the social media manager for TKS.