Charred debris stained the snow in the courtyard of Lowell House yesterday after a fire broke out there early yesterday morning.
The blaze, contained to the outside arch which connects the Lowell courtyard to Plympton Street, was reported shortly after 3 a.m. Firefighters responded immediately and there were no injuries.
Residents of M and N entryways, as well as those in surrounding rooms, were evacuated until the flames were completely extinguished approximately an hour later. The Cambridge Fire Department dispatched three engine companies and twenty-four personnel to the blaze which, according to witnesses, began in a trash bin.
"I was getting ready to go to bed when someone yelled, "Fire!" said Jose Gavilano '94, a Lowell N resident. "The alarm went off a short time later."
"We first smelled something burning at around 2:30 a.m.," said Adrian Ezra '94, a resident of an affected entryway. "By the time we realized that there was a fire, the smoke was overwhelming. I crossed through the basement and left by another entryway, because there was too much smoke to get out anywhere near the fire."
Officials said there was no reason to suspect that the fire, which officials classified as medium-sized, was set intentionally.
"Based on the evidence and interviews from residents, we are attributing the fire to the careless disposal of smoking materials," said Stanley Kotowski, Deputy Chief of the Cambridge Fire Department. "Apparently the fire occurred in an area where students often dispose of cigarettes, since smoking is not permitted in the dormitories." Officials were not able to positively identify the material which hadcaused the blaze, according to police.
Some students who were turned out into thefreezing January temperatures took refuge atLowell Co-master William H. Bossert's house, whichhe made available for the duration of theevacuation; others assembled in the cafeteriauntil firefighters declared the area safe at 5:02a.m., according to police reports.
Most residents were able to return to theirrooms at that time, although occupants of thosesuites directly above the fire site have beentemporarily relocated to nearby rooms, accordingto Bossert.
Their rooms were damaged as firefighters brokethrough walls, attempting to assess if the firehad spread into the baseboard of the structure,Bossert said.
"The primary reason that we haven't returned toour rooms is the overpowering smoke smell," saidHarold Burstein, a house tutor who has beendisplaced.
"There is no real fire damage, though many ofthe surrounding rooms--especially ours--receiveddamage from the smoke," Burstein said.
Though the extent of smoke-related damage tothe house remains unclear, fire officials haveestimated repair costs at $5,000.
"It took a while to put it out," said Matt T.Anestis '95, Lowell G resident who witnessed thefire from his room across the courtyard. "Afterputting out the flames on the ground, the firemenbegan chopping at the roof of the arch."
The blackened Lowell entryway has been closedoff by police lines until debris can be clearedand repairs made. According to Bossert, Universityofficials have already hired an independentcontractor to repair damages within the next fewdays.
"We're just pleased that there were noinjuries," he said. "There was also relativelylittle inconvenience to most students, consideringthe size of the blaze."
"That is," he added, "little inconvenienceother than being woken up at three in themorning."Photo Courtesy Matthew T. AnestisFirefighters work in Lowell House earlyyesterday morning.