Burning leaves force evacuation of Myers Hall

Monday, December 10, 2001

Southeast Missouri State University sophomore Ben Fillo didn't have any finals to study for Sunday afternoon, so while his roommates played videogames he decided to wander downstairs and get a newspaper.

But as he walked through the third-floor lounge in Myers Hall he smelled something burning.

On the second floor, he discovered a cloud of smoke.

"I looked out the side window and saw the smoke rising out of a sewer grate," Fillo said.

The smoke, billowing out of a ventilation pit outside the second-floor lounge, was making its way into the building and filling the halls.

Fillo ran back to the main floor and told the community adviser on duty that there was a fire downstairs and then alerted his roommates.

"I went up there and yelled at them to put the Nintendo down," he said, "and then I called the Department of Public Safety."

By that time, the fire alarm in the building was sounding and residents were evacuating.

Cape Girardeau fire chief Mike Lackman said the bottom of the pit, which provided outside ventilation to a ground-floor boiler room, was covered with leaves which had somehow ignited.

Firefighters quickly extinguished the smoldering leaves before the fire made its way inside the building.

Lackman said the smoke had mainly been contained in the hallways and stairwells and that there was no damage to any residential areas of the building, which holds up to 250 residents.

University spokeswoman Ann Hayes said students evacuated just as they should and were kept out of the building for about two hours, until 6 p.m., while firefighters and university officials checked the building for damage. She said some of the carpet was wet and a ceiling tile would have to be replaced.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

hkronmueller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128

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