Insulation sparks Cobb fire

The fire that permanently displaced 76 Cobb Hall residents last week started after a piece of insulation in the dorm’s attic caught on fire.

The flames caused damage to the attic and fourth floor, resulting in the entire hall being closed for three days.

“A light in one of the showers had some insulation laying right on top of it,” said Billy Mitchell, fire and safety emergency response manager for UNC’s Department of Environment, Health and Safety.

“Over a period of time the heat built up and it caught on fire.”

Mitchell said the Chapel Hill Fire Department arrived on scene at 4:45 p.m. and put out the fire within an hour.

Lisa Edwards, a spokeswoman for the Chapel Hill Fire Department, said UNC was handling the investigation into the fire’s cause.

Fire and smoke damage were limited and no injuries were reported, according to a statement from Chancellor Carol Folt.

The fire’s damage will keep the dorm’s fourth-floor residents out of their rooms for the rest of the year and force them to find a new place to live.

In his 20 years as an employee of the University, Mitchell said he couldn’t remember having to permanently shut down part of a dorm because of a fire.

Rick Bradley, associate director of UNC’s Department of Housing and Residential Education, said residents are adjusting better after the majority of students were allowed back into their rooms on Friday.

Bradley said some students had to endure more than others. While all 350 Cobb residents had to find temporary housing last week, only the 76 fourth-floor residents have to permanently move.

“The students who relocated have had a more challenging transition because many of them have separated form friends they selected as roommates,” Bradley said.

“We’ve tried to accommodate as many students as we can to the same locations, same buildings or floor, but obviously that’s been a challenge.”

The housing department has fielded calls from the displaced students, and most have been understanding of the situation, Bradley said.

“I wouldn’t characterize the calls as complaints. They were more questioning in nature,” Bradley said.

“I think they were questions any of us would have asked if we couldn’t get back into our bed for a period of time.”

Bradley said his department is continuing to do its best to accommodate problems resulting from the fire and that it is too early to determine the cost of damage.

city@dailytarheel.com

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