Florence Fire, UNA Police respond to dorm fire

Florence Fire stated that an electronic smoking device battery had overheated, causing the fire.

Posted: Jan 16, 2019 11:13 AM
Updated: Jan 16, 2019 2:16 PM

A fire broke out Tuesday evening at a University of North Alabama dorm.

According to Bryan Rachal, the Director of Communications and Marketing at UNA's Office of University Advancement, university police and Florence Fire crews responded around 9 p.m. Tuesday to a fire alarm at Rivers Hall. Crews found an active fire on the fifth floor, which they contained quickly. 

The building was evacuated and no injuries were reported. Students were allowed back into the building after officials determined the fire had been fully extinguished. Three rooms in the dorm are currently inaccessible, and six students had to be relocated.

Rachal says Florence Fire stated that an electronic smoking device battery had overheated, causing the fire. According to Rachal, it is prohibited to use one of these devices on the UNA campus, but it is not prohibited to have one in your possession. 

University officials are investigating whether or not there were any policy violations. Rachal says they are working to assess the needs of the displaced students, but anyone wanting to provide support can do so through the Caring for the Pride fund.

A student, Michael Brooks, says he walked out of his fifth floor dormitory that night to see what the commotion was about and says that's when he ran into a fellow student.

"I heard a very quiet beeping," Brooks said. "I asked him if that was the fire alarm and he said, 'Yes, my vape battery just exploded.'"

Brooks said he noticed a thin layer of smoke in the hall, and he and other students dashed down the stairwell and out of the dorm.

"You could hear people coming in and yelling and screaming," Brooks said.

His room was not damaged, but he opted to stay in another dormitory.

"It smells like a campfire on the entire floor," he said.

UNA officials would not let WAAY 31 into the building to see the damage because it's an active university investigation. It's unclear how long repairs could take. 

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