Students unaware as fire blazes at Keble

Concerns have been raised at Keble after a blaze in a college washroom initially failed to trigger the fire alarm.The fire broke out last Friday night in a third-floor washroom above the Hall in Liddon Quad, which was uninhabited due to building works. Residents in adjacent staircases had to be alerted to the danger by a knock on their doors, and fire alarms only went off after everyone had been evacuated.Sanna Waseem, a 2nd year medical student who lives on adjacent staircase L5, was asleep when the fire started. “Someone was going round knocking on all the doors – it was a bit surreal, since I had just woken up I assumed it was a drill,” she said.When you left the building you could smell the smoke. The evacuation happened quite quickly, but then we had to wait for over an hour in the JCR and the bar, because it was raining outside.Once I left the building I heard an alarm. I thought, ‘Wait – there’s an alarm; but why didn’t it wake me up?’” she added.Keble JCR President, John Maher, claimed that while there was some delay in the fire alarms sounding, they had not failed.“The fire alarm is triggered by an automated system rather than by fire or smoke: if a sensor triggers for a long time, alarms are progressively sounded in nearby buildings.“The computer system itself may be too slow but it’s not an issue of the fire alarms failing.”The fire was apparently caused by an electrical failure in a dishwasher heating element in the washroom.Two fire engines and a police car arrived at Keble at approximately 9.10 pm, minutes after being alerted of the incident. They extinguished the blaze soon after their arrival.Averil Cameron, Warden of Keble, said in a statement, “Our fire detection system operated as designed and called for the evacuation of the immediate vicinity including the adjacent residential building of staircases L4 and L5. Fortunately there were no staff or students in the Hall or adjacent service areas and those in L5 were evacuated until the all clear was given.All damage is covered by our insurance. The Domestic Bursar has already investigated the possible causes and our Health and Safety Committee will review this incident thoroughly at its next meeting. We are thankful that the damage was relatively minor and are very grateful to the Fire Brigade and to the College staff who acted so promptly to give the alarm.”by Jack Farchy