Boiler room by Goldstein Hall causes smoky atmosphere at Washington College

By Grace Apostol

News Co-Editor

At 7:13 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 12, a phone call made Washington College’s Public Safety department aware of a gas odor in Louis L. Goldstein Hall.

According to Director of Public Safety Ryan Colman, an officer was dispatched to the scene of the smell and arrived three to four minutes after the initial call to the department.

“There was an odor of burnt plastic in the building, and due to that, they began to evacuate the building out of an abundance of caution,” Colman said. “While doing that, a call came in about a smoke smell in the JFC and heavy smoke coming out of the boiler plant.”

The officer radioed the Public Safety dispatch to call the Chestertown Fire Department, as well as to contact Building and Grounds maintenance to the location. Colman said that “it appeared something may have malfunctioned in the boiler plant.”

Following this, both Goldstein Hall and the Johnson Fitness Center were evacuated and shut down.

The Chestertown Fire Department arrived on the scene, and their officers investigated the boiler plant. However, according to Colman, no flames or fire were found, only heavy black smoke that filled the air.

As the fire department assessed the situation, students gathered near the smoke in order to see what was occurring. Senior Natalie Wisnoski, the student who sent the initial call into Public Safety, was one of these students.

According to Wisnoski, she informed the department that the Goldstein building smelt of “gasoline” while inside.

Junior Zachary Osucha, another student on the perimeter of the scene, heard through the public police and fire department scanner of the incident. According to Osucha, he turned it on after hearing from his sister, junior Kaitlin Osucha, that “something is on fire on campus”.

Osucha also said that according to the information on the scanner, the fire department could not shut the boiler down until they heard from Buildings and Grounds.

According to Colman, after being contacted, Buildings and Grounds arrived in a timely manner to find out what was happening to the boiler room to cause this smoke.

“Maintenance was on scene fairly quickly for an after-hours call and they were able to determine it was a piece connected to the boiler had fallen and blocked the air flow,” Colman said. “Maintenance began to work on the issue while officers stood by for scene and traffic control and the fire department stood by as a precaution in case a fire did ignite.”

Junior Evan Merk described the scene as “concerning.” “The smoke was very thick in the air around Goldstein, and made it a bit difficult to breathe,” Merk said.

Before all students were asked to leave the scene, brothers of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity also saw the unfolding of smoke. Seniors John DeSoto, Rodger Ecker, and Dyllan Bishop watched as the boiler room’s smoke stack bellowed out thick smoke.

“We were notified of an incident happening on campus,” DeSoto said. “So we had to react. We walked down towards the scene of the incident, and we saw multiple fire trucks.”

The following day, Feb. 13, classes were in normal sessions and very little, if any, smoke residue remained in the air.

Merk also said that the aftermath communication did not include a rundown on what was occurring on campus that evening.

“The whole situation was concerning because we could easily see there was a huge emergency, but did not ever receive any information, even in the days following,” Merk said. “There was very little transparency about what was going on which was kind of concerning as a student.”

The email sent out by Colman at 8:04 p.m. on Feb. 12, was short, addressing the community about the subsequent smoke.

“There is no emergency or immediate danger to campus as it was a boiler issue and maintenance from B&G is on scene working on the issue,” the email said. Because this is a maintenance problem, Colman could not comment on how issues like this will be prevented from happening again. Director of Facilities Stan Yeakel was asked to comment on the Feb. 12 event, and has yet to respond. The Elm will continue to follow this closely.

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