News and Analysis

Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 3:03 p.m.

Dakota dryer fire forces more than 50 students to temporarily relocate

Firefighters prepare to enter The Dakota, after residents were evacuated Monday due to a dryer fire on the fifth floor. Francis Rivera | Photo Editor

Updated: Sept. 11, 2012, 12:59 a.m.

A dryer caught fire on the fifth floor of The Dakota Monday afternoon.

There were no injuries and firefighters extinguished flames by 3 p.m., University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said.

But at least 52 students will move to Amsterdam or Mitchell halls until the University clears rooms of damage from  the fire or sprinkler system, Sherrard said. Students will have to stay out of the affected rooms – which were on the fifth floor and below –  for at least three days, she added.

“Property Management and staff from the Center for Student Engagement have been on-site within the building to help students catalog and facilitate the cleaning of their belongings,” she added. “A representative from Risk Management on-site is available to answer any questions students have about how to submit an insurance claim for property damage.”

D.C. Fire and EMS put two ladders up at the residence hall on 21st and F streets and climbed up to the roof. Both streets were blocked off as six firetrucks responded to the scene.

Students were evacuated at about 2:30 p.m. Smoke could be smelled on scene.

Sherrard said students were allowed to re-enter at 6:30 p.m.

University property manager Paris Rossiter said dryer fires are rare, adding that a number of factors could have played into the malfunctioning.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of it,” Rossiter said. “The fire department got here very fast. The resident did the right thing. He saw smoke and called UPD.”

Sherrard said information was not yet available on potential damage, but sprinklers only went off in the affected room. Rooms in The Dakota offer in-unit washers and dryers.

Sophomore Lauryn King, who lives on the sixth floor of The Dakota, said residents had to transfer stairwells at the second floor because one set of stairs does not include a first-floor exit – forcing students to climb back up one flight to leave.

“It was pretty concerning and was a major point of confusion,” she said.

“You could smell [the smoke] as soon as you went into the stairwell,” sophomore Will Healy, who lives on the ninth floor, said. He added that he saw water from the sprinklers leaking through the ground floor’s light fixtures as he exited the building.

Chloe Sorvino, Matthew Kwiecinski and Cory Weinberg contributed to this report.

  • Smokey TheBear

    The company that the University used to maintain the washers and dryers sucks. They take our money and do shite jobs. The dryers in Mitchell don’t dry or are broken.

    One of the most common causes of dryer fires is lack of maintenance. When lint traps aren’t cleaned as often as they should be, the resulting build-up in the screen or other areas can cause the dryer to perform poorly, operate at elevated temperatures and possibly overheat – with dangerous consequences. Vent systems must also be checked and cleaned to maintain proper air flow for the same reasons.

    Problems may also occur if consumers place improper items in their dryers, such as foam backed rugs or athletic shoes, or vent their appliances with plastic or vinyl exhaust materials. Make sure that whatever you put in your dryer is approved and safe to place in a dryer. When in doubt, check the washing instructions on the tag of the clothing or consult the manufacturers website for more information.

  • Lucas Rogers

    As a student in the Dakota, I have been relocated to Mitchell. While it is not extravagant, I would like to thank the University for working as hard as it is to remedy this situation. I do believe the dryer systems need to be fixed or updated and more preventative measures need to be put in place. Furthermore, communication needs to be improved on. I recieved an email that my room was all clear and not effected and that I could return. I never recieved the second email telling me I would be relocated. While my room has minimal water damage, I went most of the day not knowing about the status of my room and my belongings. Efficeny is key.

  • Fratstar

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  • anon

    somehow i’m not surprised. i lived in dakota last year and the dryers might as well have been made of lint they were so clogged, its a wonder it took one this long to set on fire. that building is falling apart and the university is too cheap to just tear the place down and start over, because clearly the temporary fixes don’t work.

  • Cliff

    I’m surprised that GW’s property manager has never heard of a dryer fire, especially since the #1 cause of dryer fires are lack of maintenance! I have a relative that lives in this building and know that it was a lint-related fire which means proper maintenance could have prevented all the damage.

    Annual dryer vent cleaning and simple safety alarms like the LintAlert could help prevent this disaster while maximizing dryer venting efficiency.

    Our company would be glad to work with the University to ensure every vent system is properly maintained and monitored to ensure these lint-related dryer fires do not happen again.

  • Adrian Butler

    A possible reason the smoke alarm may have failed to operate in a timely manner (especially if they were the ionization type) is here:

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