A fire displaces more than 350 Cobb residents


Firefighters respond to a fire in Cobb Residence Hall Tuesday afternoon. The Chapel Hill Fire Department is still investigating the cause.

More than 350 UNC students spent the night away from their beds after a fire in Cobb Residence Hall Tuesday afternoon.

The fire that started in the residence hall’s attic did not cause any injuries, but it did result in damage to some residents’ rooms. The Chapel Hill Fire Department is still investigating the cause of the fire.

UNC Department of Public Safety spokesman Randy Young said at a press briefing that the fire started in the residence hall’s attic around 4:30 p.m., automatically triggering the hall’s alarm system.

He said there was only minimal structural damage to the building.

“The big thing here is that it’s completely contained at this time,” Young said.

At 6 p.m. crews were still in the residence hall making sure there were no additional safety hazards.

“The first concern is making sure there aren’t any hot spots or any other incendiary areas,” Young said.

Rick Bradley, associate director of the Department of Housing and Residential Education, said the department has 250 empty beds available across campus for the displaced residents. The others will need to make arrangements with friends.

Bradley said it is unclear how long the residence hall will remain closed, but students were allowed in their rooms in shifts to gather their most essential personal supplies.

“Really just be grabbing some bedding, maybe some books you need for tomorrow,” Bradley said to a group of Cobb Residence Hall residents Tuesday night.

Junior Asma Warrich said she was in her room on the fourth floor using her laptop when she lost power.

She alerted her resident adviser and went outside, where she saw smoke pouring out of the chimney.

Warrich said her room was where firefighters were chafing away charred parts of the building’s exterior.

“I just hope everything’s fine and that none of our stuff is damaged,” Warrich said.

She said she didn’t have time to collect essential belongings, including her cellphone.

“I’m kind of freaked out. All of my stuff is in there. I didn’t even bring my shoes. I have my socks on,” Warrich said.

Bradley said the fourth floor is still without electricity and the rooms closest to the incident are rooms 416 to 422.

Bradley said these rooms are the most affected by the fire because those on the fourth floor sustained extensive water damage from fire hoses which were putting out the fire.

Also present at the meeting was Dean of Students for Student Affairs Jonathan Sauls , who encouraged the affected students to notify their professors of the situation.

“We don’t want anybody worrying about things that are beyond your control,” Sauls said. “Professors will be reading about this tomorrow.”

Bradley said it is unclear whether the University will pay for any damage caused by the fire or the water hoses.

“We do recommend you all have renter’s insurance,” he said.

Students in the residence hall said they did not see or smell smoke inside the dorm but were alerted by the fire alarm.

“I went outside and they told us it was a real fire, not a drill, because there was smoke,” said sophomore Tuck Kennedy. Kennedy lives on the third floor of Cobb but said he didn’t smell anything until he went outside.

Sophomore Adam White said he initially did not take the alarm seriously.

“We were just hanging out in the room and we didn’t want to get up because we assumed it was a drill, and I didn’t bring anything because I figured it was a drill, and the second we get outside we realized there was smoke,” he said.

Bradley said he anticipates that the dorm will be open on a limited basis Wednesday so that students can gather additional supplies. Sauls said a cleanup crew will come through today, but students can rest assured they will not be disposing of any personal property.

“They’re not going to dispose of things without your permission,” Sauls said.

Thanks for reading.


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