Students, Resident Assistants, Campus Safety staff and community responders stand in the 8th floor lounge after the sprinkler system was activated. PHOTO BY BEN LECHENSKY

Brooke ThamesBROOKE THAMES; Editor-in-Chief; thamesbe@plu.edu

Editor’s Note: Ben Leschensky is a writer for Mast Media. This story has been updated since it’s original print date, Nov. 17, 2017.

A fire ignited in a Tingelstad dorm room around 1 p.m. Nov. 3, causing a combination of fire, smoke and water damage to rooms on multiple floors.

The fire sparked in room 814, a three person room on the 8th floor. According to the Campus Safety (CSAF) report, “combustible materials” were stored on top of the kitchenette stove.  The Pierce County Fire Prevention Bureau report states that the right rear burner was inadvertently activated, causing the materials to flare.

“The fire was a complete accident,” first-year and 814 resident Ben Leschensky said. “Nobody was in the room at the time of the fire, and we hadn’t used the oven in over a week.”

The fire singed a significant portion of the wall and cabinetry near the stove before the sprinkler triggered and effectively extinguished the flames. However, the sprinkler kept running even after the fire was out, causing flooding in 814 and a slew of rooms on the eighth floor. Leschensky said the 8th floor lounge, common kitchen and study room sustained water damage as well.

The fire alarm sounded between 12:50 and 1 p.m. CSAF responded to the scene at 1:03 p.m., followed by Facilities Management at 1:22 p.m. Two fire trucks from Central Pierce Fire and Rescue (CPFR) also responded.

Elevator use was reserved for students with accessibility needs and responders. Emergency responders sectioned off the 8th floor while they worked on rectifying the initial damage.

Leschensky was in class when the fire occurred and recalled receiving a phone call from his roommate shortly after informing him of the damage.

“I was concerned about the extent of the damage, and was playing a ton of worse-case scenarios through my head as I walked to lower campus,” Leschensky said.

Once there, Leschensky and his roommates answered questions for CSAF, CPFR firefighters and the responding Fire Marshal. Leschensky said he felt relieved to know the kitchen was the only damaged area. However, he said he was also “bummed about all the people that were upset at us as a result of the fire.”

Leschensky and his roommates received alternative Tingelstad living arrangements from Residential Life until their room receives the proper repairs. Leschensky said the fire has added excess stress to his first year at Pacific Lutheran University.

“Relocating to a new room, trying to settle into a new routine and taking a lot of negativity from all the people affected has made this more stressful than it needed to be,” Leschensky said. “College is already a grind, so this whole situation just made it worse. I’m just burned out, literally.”

Check out more here: Residence hall woes: what’s going on in Tingelstad


Read the Fire Department’s full incident report here

Read the Fire Marshal’s full investigation report here

More details about the fire are available in the Campus Safety Week in Review. ◼︎

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