July 20, 2019 | 78° F

Grease fire in Sojourner Truth Apartments indefinitely displaces 26 Rutgers students

A small fire on the 12th floor led to mass-evacuation and water damage in the newly built complex

Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez and Dimitri Rodriguez |

Over 400 students were evacuated from the Sojourner Truth Apartments today after a kitchen fire on the 12th floor set off the sprinkler system. 

Hundreds of residents were evacuated from The Yard @ College Ave this afternoon after a grease fire on the 12th floor set off the alarms and sprinkler systems — but according to students on the scene, there was a notable gap between the evacuations of the top and the bottom floors.

“The sprinkler system activated, causing water to reach lower floors down to the lobby,” said University spokesperson Neal Buccino. “Residence Life representatives have been on (the) scene since the incident began.”

No injuries were reported, but according to Buccino, approximately 26 students were displaced as a result of flooding in their apartments. He said Residence Life has connected those students with temporary housing that will be available until they can return to their apartments.

Laura Dengrove, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said that some individuals were asked to provide a record of the possessions in their apartments as a provision in case of flooding-related damage.

“We didn’t really see anything because we’re on the fourth floor. Apparently there were flashing lights near the elevators but we didn’t get any alarm at all, even though the people above us did,” Dengrove said. “There are some people who have been out here for an hour — we just got out five minutes ago. When you look at the whole picture, that probably isn’t great.”

The Sojourner Truth Apartments opened earlier this year and aside from drills, this was the first time that an emergency has forced students to evacuate the building. There are a total of 442 students currently living in the complex.

Michael Collins, a School of Engineering senior, lives just two floors below where the kitchen fire took place. Unlike residents on the fourth floor, he said he was alerted to the emergency by a series of alarms.

“The first thing that happened around 3 p.m. was we got an alarm that was automated, saying ‘an emergency has been reported’ and to the best of my knowledge it's the same alarm that happens when there’s a fire drill,” Collins said. “I was cooking when it happened so I figured I’ll just be quiet and stay in my room — it's a drill, it happens. Then about 15-20 minutes ago we got an actual alert from a person on an intercom saying ‘all residents evacuate’ it sounded legit so we all left.”

After talking to some of the other displaced students, Collins said he began to realize that everyone appeared to have been evacuated at different times, through different means.

“I did hear my friend got an actual person on the intercom first and apparently that was a lot earlier than in my apartment. She’s on the seventh floor. To me it seems very disorganized and I’m very confused as to what would happen if a bigger emergency actually did happen,” Collins said.

Kira Herzog is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is the news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @kiraherzog1 for more.

Kira Herzog

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