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Reckers heats up Saturday night

Amanda Michaels | Monday, March 27, 2006

Emergency crews were dispatched to South Dining Hall in the early hours of Saturday morning after flames and smoke were reported to be coming out of the chimney connected to Reckers, the 24-hour eatery attached to the back of the building.

There were no injuries, and the building sustained minimal damage, Notre Dame Fire Department (NDFD) Captain Tim Hoeppner said on the scene Saturday.

Hoeppner said NDFD received a call from concerned Reckers staff between 3 a.m. and 3:15 Saturday, and sent a unit to investigate claims of “flames coming from the roof.” Hoeppner said the building’s fire alarm was tripped soon thereafter, when firefighters were already responding to the situation.

Once NDFD confirmed the fire, it called in the South Bend Fire Department (SBFD) for additional support, Hoeppner said. According to Hoeppner, SBFD came with three fire engines – including two ladder trucks – an ambulance, a fire chief and a safety officer. One ladder truck was used to approach the fire from the outside, Hoeppner said, while two crews approached the situation from inside the building.

Notre Dame Security/Police officers were also on the scene, and the presence of a unit from the South Bend Police Department was reported, but unconfirmed.

Hoeppner said initial assessments indicated the fire originated in the chimney flue for Reckers’ wood-burning oven used to make pizzas. It then spread to the ventilation equipment at the top of the chimney and remained confined in that area, he said.

Hoeppner said the fire was possibly caused by a build-up of creasote in the chimney – a common problem with wood-burning ovens. NDFD will carry out an investigation into the exact cause of the fire, Hoeppner said.

Hoeppner said Reckers had experienced a similar fire in the past, “at least a few years ago.”

Paula Roberts, Reckers manager on-duty at the time, said she was made aware of the situation by students who saw sparks coming from the chimney outside.

“Inside [Reckers] there wasn’t a sign that anything was wrong, it didn’t smell like smoke,” Roberts said. “But we went outside to see, and sure enough, there were sparks and smoke. We do get that from time to time with the pizza oven, but this did seem [excessive].”

Roberts said there were seven employees and approximately 20 students in the eatery at the time.

“The kids were so cooperative, everyone evacuated calmly. There was never any danger,” she said.

Roberts and several adult employees waited outside for just over an hour until they were allowed back in the building.

“It’s pretty cold out here, but I don’t want to go too far away from the register,” Roberts said at the time. “But these nice kids brought us jackets, so we’re okay.”

Reckers reopened Saturday with a reduced menu. Damage costs are not yet available.