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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Lincoln College students relocated following accommodation fire

Estelle Atkinson reports.

Estelle Atkinson
Estelle Atkinson
Former Editor-in-Chief (TT22)

CW: Building fire

Firefighters were called to the Lincoln College accommodation on Walton Street on October 27th to extinguish a “well-developed fire,” as reported by the BBC

All students left the building safely, and more than 30 Lincoln students were moved to temporary accommodation. 

A student from Lincoln College told Cherwell that “the mood amongst students … was one of shock (everything seemed a bit surreal), but also one of solidarity. Everyone was very supportive of one another.

“When I arrived key members of the Lincoln site team and accommodation office were already there and kept us well-informed, in spite of the very difficult circumstances and firemen going in and out. Our college chaplain also appeared later on. Those of us on the scene were very touched by the kindness of several businesses on Little Clarendon Street (namely Gail’s and the Oxford Wine Cafe) who offered us free coffee and food while we were waiting for news.”

The student told Cherwell  that after the fire “No one was allowed to sleep in the building on Wednesday evening. At around 5/5:30pm  Lincoln staff organised for everyone to be able to go up and pack an overnight bag. The staff were very helpful in arranging alternative times for people to go and collect belongings over the next couple of days, if residents weren’t there at that specific time and/or forgot something. By 5:30pm the accommodation department had already sorted out where everyone would be sleeping.”

Students were allocated to different accomodation locations around the city: “some people went to alternative Lincoln accommodation in the centre of town, some to Somerville and others to Jesus accommodation in Cowley. Everyone had to stay away for at least two nights. Bedding packs were provided by the college.” The majority of students moved back into their original accomodation on Friday afternoon, although most of the first floor of the building is still out of bounds.

As for the damage caused by the fire, the student reported that “because the fire was contained to one room, most of the building is unscathed apart from the smell of smoke (which has since faded because it was given a chance to air out) and smoke damage on the first floor. College arranged for specialist cleaners to come in first thing the morning after and they and the housekeeping team have been working on the clean-up. 

Station manager Pete Mackay told the BBC that the fire had taken place during National Fire Safety Week. He continued, “this highlights the importance of students and staff knowing exactly what to do in the event of a fire.”

“However there has been some significant disruption to the building, and the occupant has lost all their belongings due to what was a significant fire.” The fire service said the fire is thought to have been accidental and maybe started by a faulty charging device. 

A spokesperson for Lincoln College called the fire a “dreadful accident,” saying “fortunately, nobody suffered injury in the fire.  Our primary concern is for the safety and wellbeing of the students.

“We have supported students on the day of the fire and throughout the days following it. By responding swiftly, we ensured fire damage was limited.  We had in-person welfare support immediately available to students at the site of the fire. On the afternoon of the fire, we found alternative accommodation for all the affected students in Lincoln accommodation or in other colleges. In particular, we thank Somerville and Jesus colleges for their support.  We have been providing free meals to affected students and will reimburse their rent for the days the Little Clarendon Street accommodation has not been available to them; we also made a grant to each student to cover incidental expenses.

“Welfare officers and other College staff have been in constant communication with students each day since the fire. All operations officers and the Oxford Colleges fire safety adviser have had meetings with students to answer questions. The buildings have been thoroughly cleaned by College housekeeping services and external specialist cleaners.  Welfare support continues to be available to students affected by the fire.   Financial support is available, and we are resolved that no student should be financially disadvantaged because of the fire. The majority of students have already moved back into the building, and we expect occupation of all rooms to return to normal shortly, except for the one room damaged by the fire.”

The student from Lincoln College felt that the response to the fire was a testament to how special the Lincoln College community is, saying: “throughout the process I have been blown away by the efficiency, sensitivity and kindness displayed by all members of Lincoln staff. We have been offered financial support. I had some slight concerns about moving back in, but staff members spoke to me kindly and openly about these and set my mind at ease. Other residents recently raised concerns about possible health risks posed by the air quality and the emotional toll the episode has taken. College responded to these concerns very promptly and took them seriously, informing us that they are planning welfare events and support for us and will be inviting a fire safety expert to come and address our concerns. In the meantime, they pointed us in the direction of welfare resources.

“Although the past week has been very hard for everyone in LCS Lincoln accommodation there is now an awareness of a strong bond between us. The general feeling (shared by myself) is that college handled an awful situation well and we are very grateful to the wonderful staff who are helping us through this. Other students (both in the JCR and MCR) have also been extremely supportive.”

Image: Diliff/CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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