College bans use of fireplaces

by Rachel Osterman | 10/11/00 5:00am

The 223 students with private fireplaces will no longer be able to use them until further notice, following a moratorium placed on the use of fireplaces in dorm rooms by the Office of Residential Life.

A proud component of Dartmouth residential buildings and sometimes the only physical structures in dorms that harken back to the College's pre-electricity years, the use of this quintessentially New England feature will now be permitted only in common areas.

The moratorium on fireplaces came after the College's insurance company completed its annual audit of campus facilities. Whereas in years past the company's report has made no mention of the potential safety hazard created by fireplaces, this year it informed ORL for the first time that the fireplaces fail to comply with construction codes.

The private use of fireplaces can and has proven harmful. In the last 10 years alone, two fires have been caused by private residential fireplaces -- though neither caused major damage.

ORL has yet to determine what will become of the fireplaces. Possibilities, according to Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman, include expanding the size of the fireplaces so that they comply with code and maintaining the fireplaces' physical framework while rendering them unusable.

"I'd rather leave them even if they don't work," Redman told the Student Assembly last night.

The moratorium will continue until a soon-to-be formed committee composed of Assembly and ORL representatives, in addition to an official from the insurance company, issues its recommendations. No timeline has been set for the committee's work.

While most Ivy League schools no longer permit private fireplace use, Harvard still allows students to utilize them.

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