Sports, University News

OMAC fire causes damage, injury

Melting fluorescent light causes locker room fire as smoke detectors fail to trigger alarms, sprinklers

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, November 14, 2014

An electrical fire broke out in the men's track and field locker room early Thursday morning. One student sustained minor injuries.

An electrical fire broke out in the men’s track and field locker room at the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center Thursday morning, destroying runners’ personal belongings and injuring one student.

Just after 7 a.m., several runners were preparing for a morning run when they noticed a “weird smell” in the room, said Dan McDonald Meteer ’17. Drops of burning plastic then began to drip from the ceiling as a fluorescent light fixture began to burn.

“We looked up and the ceiling light was melting,” said Luke Muzikowski ’17.

Ben Halpin ’15, who walked in shortly after the light ignited, described seeing “a flame coming out of it.”

One droplet landed on Muzikowski, who said it was “still aflame” when it fell on him. He suffered a minor burn and brought it to Health Services.

“Luckily it wasn’t serious,” he said. “It could have very easily been much worse.”

As the light continued to burn, drops fell at a greater rate onto the carpet, which then caught fire. Muzikowski said the runners could not find a fire extinguisher, and he was forced to use a water bottle in an attempt to put out the growing flames. But the fire spread to the bags of laundry hanging on the closely packed lockers, and it jumped quickly from bag to bag.

Flames spread across multiple lockers, but no smoke alarms or sprinklers were activated. McDonald Meteer said he could not find a manual fire alarm to pull in the locker room and went to search outside the room to find one.

“The room was essentially ablaze by the time that I went outside of the locker room and had to pull the fire alarm out there,” McDonald Meteer said. Even when he pulled the manual alarm, the system only triggered an auditory alarm and did not turn on the sprinklers.

Muzikowski said flames were “engulfing” the room, but the smoke alarm did not go off. “Everything was burning,” he said. “I feel like that should have triggered it.”

After McDonald Meteer pulled the manual alarm, the building was evacuated. In the meantime, one of the athletes alerted the front desk about the fire, and they called the fire department, which arrived shortly thereafter, he said.

The blaze affected roughly 20 lockers, said track captain Henry Tufnell ’15. About 10 were unsalvageable, including that of Muzikowski, who said the contents of his locker were “incinerated.”

Tufnell called the locker room “an accident waiting to happen.” The team has over 60 members who all share one room, and a lack of space forced runners to keep equipment on top of their lockers. Muzikowski said the closeness of the lockers contributed to the spread of the flames.

Tufnell also expressed concern that there was no fire extinguisher in the room and that the smoke detectors and sprinklers failed to function. “If a fire breaks out, the least they could do is put it out before it destroys lockers and clothes,” he said.

“If we weren’t in there, that would have completely destroyed” the entire team’s equipment, Muzikowski said. “The fire safety needs to be improved.”

Halpin said those whose belongings were lost in the fire are assembling a list of the possessions lost in the hope that the University will provide compensation. Administrators could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

OMAC equipment room staff members helped wash all clothes that smelled of smoke and replaced school-issued clothing that had been lost in the fire, while track coaches helped move the team into an upstairs visitors’ locker room.

The runners are now packed two to a locker in their temporary space, and many are still unclear on the status of their belongings, Muzikowski said.

“A lot of stuff is still chaotic,” Muzikowski said, adding that the athletes are uncertain what action the University will take in the coming weeks.

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  1. Fencing alum says:

    The fire safety issues are totally messed up and I’m sorry you all had to go through what must have been a terrifying experience in which thankfully no one was hurt.

    All that being said, your complaints about a locker room and equipment do nothing but annoy me. At least your team has a locker room and school sponsored equipment. Some of your fellow varsity athletes (on teams that frankly have been more successful than you too) aren’t so fortunate.

    • yall should sue Brown University and Chris Paxson personally.

    • Josiah Carberry says:

      that did not sound bitter at all!

      • Someone cast the evil eye and made some lights melt.

      • Fencing Alum says:

        It absolutely is bitter. We get promised space in the nelson fitness center then – surprise – they decide at the last minute not to build us space. Now the program is a few years removed from being held hostage for donations (the university threatened to cut the team unless alumni/parents stepped in to financially support it), and is again being promised a future dedicated space that I will believe when I see. Additionally, much of the athletic support staff (e.g. laundry, strength training, trainers) treats the team like 2nd class citizens. I’m going to be bitter when I see another team with much more than the fencing team complaining about its resources.

        • Why the fuk do you need to see the trainers as a fencer…. To pull your little sword out of your a$$?

        • Creworfencing says:

          Why don’t you go fuk yourself. You’re using the comment section of a bdh article to promote your own agenda at the expense of some poor kids, one of which was burned. Why don’t you go jump in that fire you kunt fuk

        • Double Carberry says:

          Brown is a caring and nurturing institution offering a superb education and extracurricular opportunities. They place the interest of the students above their own! *gasp* Cynicism and a “sour grapes” attitude has no place here. Making false and bitter accusations that the university is holding the team “hostage for donations,” is a pretty wild claim and says more about you than Brown.

    • Jim Van Metre says:

      Thankfully no serious injury or worse. The issue is safety for all, not who is most deserving of locker rooms, fire doesn’t discriminate. Your put down, at such a time, is completely misguided.

      • Fencing Alum says:

        Well when the article has quotes and information about the poor track team being forced into the visitor’s locker room where they have to share lockers it opens up discussion about varsity resources. The fencing team literally has a closet – that’s the only dedicated space it gets. Imagine if the track team didn’t have a track and instead had to practice on the wrist on quad loop. That’s essentially how the team has to practice in the OMAC.

    • It’s easy to be “more successful” when there’s only twenty teams you need to beat to win a national championship.

      • Fencing alum says:

        yes, there are 274 track teams compared to 43 fencing teams – but the best track athletes in the world don’t go to the ivy league like the best fencers in the world do.

        • Your life is so unfair says:

          …Again, I think that says more about fencing than it does about track.

        • FencingSphincter says:

          You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about. The Ivy League recruits national caliber track and field athletes every year. This fact has become even more true in recent years. Do your research before making allegations against fellow Bruno programs amigo

    • fencing suxx says:

      Did you get fwcked in the a$$ last night cause you sound extremely butthurt

  2. I wonder what the real story is. The projo reports that the Providence Fire Chief said that the sprinklers were activated

  3. Pulling a fire alarm does not and will never activate a sprinkler system- nor should it, since the pull station is often not immediately adjacent to the fire. Only heat from a fire will trigger a sprinker head.

  4. Brilliant athlete thinks sprinklers should be electronically controlled during electrical fire!

  5. The fire, as unfortunate as it was, underscores that the OMAC building, both inside and out, is a disgraceful eyesore of a structure, and easily the most inadequate “field house” type facility in the league. I trust that Jack Hayes has his eye on this ball and is identifying funding sources to enhance the structure.

  6. How did the OMAC fire get this many comments? haha

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