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Building Fire - Washington College, Chestertown

Wednesday, May 1, 2024
At 9:03 pm on Tuesday, April 30, 2024, the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company, along with multiple mutual aid companies, was dispatched to the structure fire at the Sassafras Residence Hall, Washington College, 300 Washington Avenue. The 9-1-1 caller was reporting smoke coming from a room on the second floor. The Washington College Department of Public Safety was already working to evacuate and clear the building of students.
First arriving, the EMS unit from the Kent & Queen Annes Rescue Squad, found an elevated smoke condition in the second-floor hallway. After further investigation they located the source of the fire in a common kitchen area, where they found a burning saucepan on the top of a kitchen range. They extinguished the fire and notified incoming fire equipment the fire was due to unattended cooking. The response was ultimately reduced to Chestertown VFC units, and the EMS unit from the K&QA Rescue Squad.
Upon the arrival of our first engine, the crew proceeded inside to check for extension (spread) into the wall, using a Thermal Imaging Camera. None was discovered. Our attention turned to smoke removal from the building, and this proved problematic. While the windows in the dorm rooms can open, all the windows in the public areas were of a sealed design and unable to be opened. We set up a relay system of multiple high velocity smoke fans to move the smoke down the hallway to the stairwell. The smoke was then moved through the stairwell and ultimately to the outside. It took about 30 minutes to clear the residual smoke lingering on the second floor.
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We should take this opportunity to mention… Had this fire remained undetected for a few more minutes, we may have been called upon to deal with a completely different operation. Remember, fire doubles in size every 60 seconds. Luckily, that didn’t happen. If it had, we would benefit from the fact this building is equipped with fire sprinklers They likely would have tripped, holding the fire in check, pending our arrival. However, not all locations are covered by fire sprinklers. All are reminded… Make sure you have working smoke alarms strategically placed in your home. And NEVER leave cooking unattended. If you’re unexpected called away? Turn off the burners and / or oven. These types of fire happen more often than many realize. Unattended cooking is a leading cause of home fires in the United States.
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The Maryland State Fire Marshals Office was notified. As there are no reported injuries, and the fire is not considered suspicious, it was not necessary for them to respond. Even though not considered suspicious, the Washington College Department of Public Safety is investigating the circumstances of this fire.
The Chestertown VFC operated at this fire for about an hour. All photographs are courtesy of the Chestertown VFC. Media may use photographs with proper attribution.
Companies dispatched, operating, and notified...
Chestertown VFC
Kennedyville VFC
Church Hill VFC
Crumpton VFC
Kent & Queen Annes Rescue Squad
Kent County EMS
Maryland State Fire Marshals Office

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