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reed magazine logoSpring 2008

Fire Damages Eliot Chapel

Early on the morning of Sunday, April 6, a fire broke out in Eliot chapel. A student reported seeing smoke and flames from outside the building, and community safety officers responded, quickly putting out the blaze with fire extinguishers.

College officials report that arson is not suspected in the fire, and the incident is unrelated to the death of a student, Alex Lluch, on campus the previous day.

According to facilities director Towny Angell, the fire occurred in the chapel’s south wall. It was caused by a steam pipe in direct contact with the wood paneling. The phenomenon is known as pyrolysis, when a low-heat source, in this case a 200-degree condensate return pipe, is in constant contact with wood for an extended period of time. Portland Fire and Rescue responded quickly. The fire was easily contained, but smoke intrusion in the chapel was extensive. During clean-up and historic restoration of the damaged wall and window, the pews were removed for cleaning. Curtains, carpets, and cushions are being replaced and the chapel will be refurbished by late May. The large leaded glass window that is being built will not be installed until mid-June. The chapel and other parts of Eliot Hall are now being assessed for similar fire hazards.

reed magazine logoSpring 2008