By Casey Chafin| The Duquesne Duke
Duquesne University staff members are still calculating the total damage caused by the July 21 grease fire that broke out in a Brottier apartment, according to a university spokeswoman.
A resident in an apartment on the 14th floor started a grease fire while cooking just before 10 p.m., Karen Ferrick-Roman of Public Affairs confirmed. Although it was extinguished before fire crews arrived, it set off sprinklers on several floors, causing water damage to 50 apartments, said Ferrick-Roman.
Brottier resident Catherine Hull was in her 15th floor apartment the night the fire happened.
“I was just in my bedroom and it was just the one night that I had planned on going to bed early,” Hull said. “I was in the middle of brushing my teeth and then the fire alarm went off.”
She said it took her a couple minutes to realize it was the fire alarm, since she had just moved into the building for the summer and did not know what the building’s alarm sounded like.
“I grabbed my shoes and whatever I could find and ran out, with toothbrush in hand,” she said.
The fire set off the sprinklers on parts of the 15th, 14th and 12th floors. Fourteen residents were placed in alternate housing due to the damages.
Hull’s room was not one of the ones affected and she was able to return that night.
Duquesne spokeswoman Rose Ravasio said the total cost of the damages is still being evaluated.
Ryan Thomas and Andrew DeMarco moved into their apartment on the 12th floor last week, and although they were not there during the fire, they say they are benefitting from it.
“Everything, all like the carpet is brand new, the couch is brand new, they just repainted the whole wall,” DeMarco said. “They redid a lot of the stuff in the bathroom too. Everything is new.”
The roommates agreed they are content with the way the university handled the cleanup process.
“I don’t know what it looked like [immediately after the fire], but it looks nice now,” Thomas said.
Hull said the university brought in restoration crews. The crews were moving in and out of the building for about two weeks, with their trucks and equipment filling the streets around the hall.
At this point, all of the affected rooms have been restored, according to Ferrick-Roman.
DeMarco said he thinks Brottier apartments would be safer from fires in general if the kitchens had a ventilation system or came with fire extinguishers.
“If you have a functional kitchen, it doesn’t make sense not to have vents,” he said. “We put a fan in ours just so it doesn’t get too crazy.”
James O’Connor, captain of Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Station 4, said grease fires are unlike regular fires and must be handled with caution.
“Never put water on it,” O’Connor said. “Putting water on it would be like putting gasoline on it. It explodes. Smother it. That’s the thing you can do, is smother it. If you have a pot lid, put it over it.”
He also said a wet dish towel can be thrown over the fire to extinguish it.
O’Connor also emphasized prevention.
“Just keep the flames away from the grease,” he said. “I know you’re cooking, there’s a flame underneath there. But try to keep the flame away from the grease.”