The Tuesday before Thanksgiving break at 3:12 a.m. a fire started in Mason Hall and triggered the fire alarm and sprinkler system, according to a report by the Greencastle Fire Department.
Throughout that evening and the following weeks, students, resident assistants, and faculty were in the dark about the details regarding the renovations and the potential date to move back in.
“Once the actual fire is out, it gets into coordinating all details. Communication becomes a challenge at that point,” said Dean of Students, Myrna Hernandez.
“When there is a clown sighting, it's not even real, and they send out email in less than 24 hours. It has been two weeks since the fire and the student body still doesn’t know the condition of Mason,” said sophomore Mason resident Norah Song.
Following the evacuation, residents of Mason Hall watched the smoke billow out of the third floor window where the fire started.
Two hours later rooms in Lucy Hall and the Union Building were opened for residents to stay in that night. At 7 a.m. the next day, students were allowed back into Mason to move their belongings into the storage unit in the hall.
In total, 18 students had to move into upperclassmen halls and emergency rooms in south quad.
“The storage room was an absolute mess because everyone’s stuff was there and we had to move it all out in an hour,” Song said.
Following the initial efforts from the University to make sure everyone was safe and the affected areas were properly evacuated, students became bogged down trying to relocate while keeping up with academics.
“Campus Life did not inform my professors at all. The professors were only informed we had a fire, but not the other things that came with it,” Song said.
Resident Assistant, junior Robert Rubio, had the same feelings as Song. “They were informed of the fire, but not that students had to move their things,” Rubio said. “For a lot of students, they were up all night and were running around trying to figure out their unfortunate situation.”
A factor that made it difficult for students to organize their things after the fire was not just the over capacity storage room, but the difficulty getting into the area.
In order to get a key to the storage facility, residents had to go to the CLCD office, unlock the storage unit, and return the key. In Song’s case, she missed a previously scheduled appointment with a professor because of the process.
Emeline Hansen, an employee of CLCD and a resident in the Mason Hall apartments, has had a similar experience as student residents. Her first floor apartment was flooded ruining the tiles in her kitchen and dining room.
“It’s always a challenge to get students to relax and realize that items are replaceable,” Hansen said. “Hopefully students will look back because it could have been much more dangerous than it was.”
Residents of Mason Hall were able to return to their units on Monday, Dec. 5 after multiple delays. Residents were told by CLCD that they would be back into their units the Monday after break, then that coming Friday.