Investigators: Accidental fire damaged Duke dorm rooms

Feb. 21, 2014 @ 06:31 PM

A Duke University dormitory fire Thursday started accidentally due to an electrical problem, Durham fire officials said Friday.

The fire burned out several Duke students at Brown Residence Hall on East Campus. No one was hurt.

A room on the third floor and its contents were destroyed, and three other dorm rooms sustained smoke damage, Deputy Chief Chris Iannuzzi of the Durham Fire Department said.

City firefighters were called to the dorm at 7:39 p.m. and saw heavy smoke on the third floor. They extinguished the fire in less than 15 minutes, but several students were displaced.

Duke freshman Ethan Levine, 18, was in his room when the fire broke out.

“I was on my computer and heard the fire alarm go off, and was like, ‘it’s probably a false alarm or another fire drill,’ ” he said Friday. “So I was, like, slowly getting out and heard kids scream: ‘Is it a real fire?’ ”

Levine said he grabbed his most important property – a laptop computer, cell phone and wallet – then put on his shoes and started to leave.

“When I got out of my room, I saw smoke in the hallway, and just ran out through the fire escape,” he said. “And as I got down to the bottom, I saw the room, and it’s like, glowing, and there’s black smoke inside and the window exploded.”

He said he saw flames “climbing to the roof” and waited outside for help to arrive.

Levine said he and other students are sleeping elsewhere on campus until Monday, when they’ve been told they can return to their dorm.

Several residents gathered at the dorm’s front door just as Friday morning’s ferocious storm began.

“This has been, like, the worse time ever,” one student said. “Now I’ll probably get struck by lightning.”