College to relocate 67 students after Morton fire

by Rebecca Asoulin | 10/1/16 1:59pm

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Pieces of Morton Hall roof on the ground Saturday afternoon. 

by Rebecca Asoulin / The Dartmouth

All 67 students living in Morton Hall will be relocated to new rooms after a four-alarm fire broke out Saturday morning around midnight, said Mike Wooten, residential life director. East Wheelock assistant director Josiah Proietti, whose apartment is in the building, will also be relocated.

At a 4 p.m. meeting Saturday in House Center A, Wooten informed Morton residents that they would be given 10 minutes to retrieve their most important belongings before dark. Each floor’s group of residents were divided in half and allowed to enter in small groups to walk through their rooms for belongings. Masks were available for students as a precaution while re-entering their rooms.

Full retrieval of other possessions will be possible early next week, while the house center will serve as a resource hub.

The Red Cross was in Brace Commons assessing student needs and providing resources like blankets and gift cards for affected students after they gathered their belongings, Wooten said.

The College has been looking at using vacant residential hall spaces, converting halls’ lounge spaces and some of the College owned real estate in Hanover, Wooten said. Wooten noted that College housing is at “virtual capacity” already.

Housing director Rachael Class-Giguere worked on assigning students to new rooms, using the housing office’s priority system as well as trying to keep roommates together, Wooten said.

“Acknowledging that when you displace 67 people and we’re already at virtual capacity, it’s very difficult,” Wooten said.

Residential life, Safety and Security, the Hanover fire department and administrators held a noon meeting for affected students.

As early as Saturday morning, fire fighters helped some students with medications retrieve them from their rooms, Wooten said.

Dick’s House staff members were available at the House Center. Toiletries, sheets, bedding and towels were provided for students. Residential life also has a DA$H card available for students for laundry and food. The campus laundry service, E&R, has been made available to students. Computing services is providing laptops and other technology to students. Deans are informing faculty to make sure they are aware of the situation and how it may affect students’ class work.

Wooten said that students filled out intake forms at noon so the College could assess student needs, and they will continue to provide support once students determine more what they need after accessing their rooms.

All students living in Zimmerman, McCulloch and Andres have been allowed back into their buildings. Wooten said that there potentially would be some residual smoke in the halls.

Last night, students could sleep in House Center A, but many found temporary accommodations with friends, Wooten said.

There were no reported injuries, and the fire was reported extinguished in a 6:21 a.m. campus wide email from Facilities Operations & Management.

Wooten said that he has never seen a fire of this magnitude in his 20 years in residential life. He said that community members, staff, students and faculty, have been reaching out to residential life staff members to offer rooms.

“It’s going to be tight,” Wooten said. “It’s going to be not exactly perfect accommodations for everyone. But we have a bed for all of our students.”