The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Second fire in almost three months hits College

Jillian Barwick | Tuesday, January 29, 2013

For the second time in less than three months, Moreau Hall on Saint Mary’s campus caught fire Sunday night.

Saint Mary’s Security and Notre Dame Fire Department were alerted of a fire in the O’Laughlin Auditorium on Sunday night at 10:59 p.m., according to a press release from director of media relations Gwen O’Brien.

“Security officers were the first to respond to the alarm and found the curtains at stage left on fire,” the press release stated. “The sprinkling system above the curtains was working and a security officer used a fire extinguisher to further contain the fire.”

When the Notre Dame Fire Department arrived at the scene, they found the curtains were still on fire, according to the release.

“Clay Fire Territory and the South Bend Fire Department also responded to the call,” the release stated. “No one was in the auditorium when security and the fire crews arrived. The cause of the fire is under investigation.”

The College notified students of the fire around 7 a.m. Monday via text, email and phone call with an automated voice recording. The messages also let students know that classes in Moreau were cancelled for the day.

Senior Mariah Niedbalski learned of the fire through social media before she had heard from the College.

“Around midnight I saw a friends Facebook status saying ‘I survived the great Moreau fire, again?'” Niedbalski said. “Our school didn’t send out an ’emergency alert’ until 7:45 a.m. the next day. It’s just not safe that our security doesn’t alert us when something as major as a building being on fire happens.”

Niedbalski called Saint Mary’s Security around 2 a.m. to see if classes would still be held in Moreau on Monday.

“They told me that they did not know how bad the fire was but said we probably wouldn’t be allowed in the building today,” Niedbalski said. “Which is odd seeing that they are security and should know these things right away.”

Once Niedbalski knew her classes would be cancelled for the day, she said she knew the damage was minor.

“All my classes are in Moreau on Mondays but my professors didn’t seem too worried since the fire started in O’Laughlin and not any of the classrooms,” Niedbalski said.

A building that houses multiple majors, Moreau is a central location for many students and professors on campus.

Colleen Fitzpatrick, a communication studies professor whose office is located in the basement of Moreau Hall, said she fortunately did not need to enter the building Monday morning.

“I was surprised that it has happened twice in only a year,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was notified around 7 a.m. just like the students. The emergency system is up and running, which is always a good sign. I’m hopeful that everything is okay since I have not been in the building yet.”

Senior Emily Caltrider, who lives in the Opus Apartments on campus, was still awake when she and her roommates heard sirens coming towards the College.

“We figured there was an accident on 933, but then we saw that the fire trucks were on campus and heading towards Holy Cross,” Caltrider said. “We initially thought it was Holy Cross on fire. We were curious as to what was happening, and since we had all lived in Holy Cross the past three years we hopped into the car to see if we could get on the Avenue to check it out.”

Caltrider and her roommates were able to make it to the Avenue where they saw several lights. Once closer to the buildings, Caltrider said she realized it was Moreau that had caught on fire.

“Fire trucks surrounded the building and the doors in the back were opened with smoke spilling out,” she said. “The fire in Moreau is an unfortunate event for the Saint Mary’s community. It is sad that this is the second fire in that building this year, and that more precautions in preventing such an incident from happening weren’t taken the first time that this happened.”

Caltrider, like many other students, faculty and staff as well as the rest of the community, said she is curious to find out what actually caused the fire and what certain precautions could have been taken to avoid this incident from occurring.

“I feel for all the [Saint Mary’s] students that have made memories over the years performing on that stage,” Caltrider said. “We hope that Tostal will still be able to take place this spring.”