No students or staff were harmed in a fire that broke out Monday evening at the UC Washington Center in Washington, D.C., which caused some water damage to the building.
The fire reportedly started in an office on the third floor at around 5:40 p.m. EST, forcing students who had just arrived in the nation’s capital in the past several days to evacuate while firefighters responded to the scene.
According to Maria Ponce, one of the resident advisers for the center, all the residents currently living in the center are safe and have all been allowed to re-enter the building following what is suspected to be an electrical fire. Ponce said most of the residents are participants in the UC Berkeley program Cal in the Capital — a summer program which hosts students at the center during the summer while they work at local internships in D.C.
Students from other UC campuses were also staying in the center, which hosts programs for each of the UC campuses — except for UCSF— and from other guest universities as well, according to the center’s website.
“Right now we are trying to deal with the (water),” Ponce said. “Students will be able to stay in their rooms because there was no damage to any residential apartments.”
Floors four through 11, where the students’ rooms are located, did not suffer any damage, according to Ponce.
Junior Caitlin Carnes, a participant in Cal in the Capital, said she had arrived in D.C. on Saturday in order to get settled and start her internship in the U.S. House of Representatives early. Carnes said that because the fire alarm didn’t go off on the ninth floor where her room is located, one of her friends had to call her to tell her to evacuate the building.
“I grabbed my shoes and purse and ran out. The hallway was totally deserted,” Carnes said. “I could hear the alarms going off on the lower floors as I went down the stairs.”
According to Carnes, approximately 30 to 40 students were gathered in the nearby parking lot of the Marriott Hotel while they watched firefighters spray water on the building.
Junior Nicholas Kitchel, another Cal in the Capital participant, said he and his friends saw a man on the ledge of the building crying for help as they evacuated.
“As soon as we walked outside, we turned around and looked at the building and a guy was using a chair to bash open a window,” Kitchel said. “It looked like the fire was getting closer to him and the smoke was shooting out the window and he was covered in soot and smoke.”
It took firefighters about 10 minutes to rescue the man, according to Kitchel, who also saw students continue to evacuate the building with their valuables.
Ponce said the center’s resident director plans to send out a statement to the center’s residents and administrative staff following the incident.
Summer programs at the center are scheduled to begin on June 10, according to Carnes.
News editor Adelyn Baxter contributed to this report.
Anjuli Sastry is an assistant news editor.