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Fire alarms force South Dining Hall evacuation

| Thursday, March 20, 2014

At approximately 11 a.m. Thursday, South Dining Hall was evacuated after smoke in the basement triggered smoke alarms throughout the building, South Dining Hall general manager Marc Poklinkowski said.

University spokesman Dennis Brown said a small outdoor fire at McKenna Hall caused smoke to spread through the underground tunnel system and set off the dining hall’s alarms.

“There was no fire in the South Dining Hall,” Brown said. “Some leaves caught on fire in an outdoor ventilation space near McKenna Hall at 10:11 a.m.

“It was extinguished quickly and there were no injuries or damage. However, it caused some smoke, which made its way through our underground tunnels to the South Dining Hall, which then caused the alarms to go off.”

Poklinkowski said the smoke set off several alarms in the basement of the dining hall and caused the evacuation, which lasted about 20 minutes.

“There was a decent amount of smoke, so it set off a number of our alarms,” he said. “We were probably outside for about 20 or 25 minutes.”

Poklinkowski said between 100 and 150 students were in the dining rooms at the time the alarms sounded, so it took less than five minutes to evacuate. He said dining hall management was aware of why the smoke was coming up through the basement but didn’t take any risks in evacuating the building.

“We saw the smoke coming in and we knew why the fire alarm was going off, but you never take a risk with an alarm going off,” he said. “We were on the phone with the fire department to make sure we knew what was going on.”

The dining hall reopened for lunch following the evacuation, but Poklinkowski said that the basement, including the Grab and Go line, remained closed to students for an additional hour while the fire department made sure it was safe.

“[The fire department] kept the basement closed a little bit longer, because that’s where the problem was,” he said.

The basement reopened at approximately 12:15 p.m. and the dining hall returned to full operations.

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About Jack Rooney

Jack is a 2016 graduate of Notre Dame, and The Observer's former managing editor. He is currently spending a year living and working for the University in Ireland, and writing columns to keep him busy. For more random thoughts and plenty of news links, follow Jack on Twitter @RooneyReports.

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