BU fire alarm rang for hours, but no emergency responders came
Resident of the apartment described the smoke as being so thick and dense that he could barely see across the room
BUSWELL STREET – It's not unusual for college students to be forgetful every now and then. But for one Boston University resident, his forgotten dinner turned into an almost life-threatening disaster.
After going out on a Saturday night, the Junior undergraduate remembered a pot of stew he'd put on the stove more than three hours beforehand. Rushing back to his South Campus apartment, he found his apartment completely engulfed in smoke.
“It was hard to breathe, and it kinda stung,” the student described the room when he first walked in. “I just covered my mouth and ran across the room to try and get some windows open.”
He described the smoke as being so thick and dense that he could barely see across the room.
“I could hear the smoke alarm going off from downstairs before I got in, and I could smell the smoke from the hallway,” he said.
The pot that the student had been cooking his stew in was completely ruined, its bottom scorched to a crisp and its plastic handles melted away. The stew had completely evaporated.
The pot had been resting over a gas stove with an open flame, but no fire resulted. However, smoke is much more difficult to cope with than many people realize.
Over the course of the following two weeks, the stinging smell of smoke hung in the apartment. The student said that the fans he used to clear the smoke were ruined because of soot congealing.
“We had fire drills a week or two ago, and I told the lady running them about my incident," he said. "She just told me to file a report with maintenance… and I never heard from my RA either."
Questions arouse, however, as to why a university that costs $64,000 a year can’t allot more of its funding to emergency response resources, specifically in the South Campus area.
According to a Professional Real Estate Agent in the BU area, “BU overcharges by about 10-30% for housing space.” The Junior undergrad who fell victim to the smoke incident theorized that some of that money could be used for better protection of its students.
BU is no stranger to fire alarm emergencies. “I’ve set off fire alarms making bacon with little to no smoke," the student said of past experiences. "These things are wicked sensitive.”
He certainly isn’t wrong. Many evacuations occur in larger residences, like West Campus’ Rich, Claflin, and Sleeper Halls, due to fire alarms going off. But in South Campus, students have more private reign over their housing, which means an alarm is less likely to get called in for immediate response.
No security guards man the apartment buildings in South, and with many students being absent from the buildings on Friday and Saturday nights, it’s not surprising that an incident like this could go unnoticed. But the dangers are too risky to let them fly so low under the radar of safety precautions and response.
The student also reported another incident he knew of, wherein an alarm was “going off for two days straight,” he said. “Maintenance took 30 minutes to even get to the building and flick a switch [to turn off the alarm]. The South Campus response time is absolute garbage.”
Showing concern for other BU students who live on campus, the student said that another situation like this "would effect everyone if someone else did it. I'm lucky I [live] on the top floor of my building and could open all the windows really easily."
Now, he says, "whenever I make something on the stove I stay in. I don't let it out of my sight until it's done." But, he concludes, BU still needs to check up on the safety matter.
The Tab reached out to the Boston University Police Department, but they could offer no comment on the matter.
“I just think, what if? What if I hadn’t remembered the stew?”