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Liedman fire under investigation

September 6, 2013

Kelsi Ford / The Courier - The room of freshmen Jareka Webb and Mirna Alhanash in the aftermath of the fire.

An early-morning fire on the balcony level of Liedman Hall has been under investigation since the event’s manifestation on Tuesday.

By midnight, freshman Jareka Webb had finally fallen asleep after a busy Monday of homework and meetings. After approximately three hours of sleep, Jareka Webb had the worst wakeup call of her life. A fire had started in her room on the second floor of Liedman hall at approximately 3 a.m. Webb, a self-proclaimed light sleeper, thought she heard a noise outside her door that immediately woke her up. She instantly smelled smoke and instinctively hurried to wake up her roommate, Mirna Alhanash, who was sleeping soundly on the bunk above her.

“I woke up and the first thing I saw smoke, and it was all over my bed,” Webb said.

The two girls split up to find their resident assistant. The RA looked into the girls’ room and told them to pull the fire alarm.

“I wasn’t panicking, but I was panicking,” Webb said. “I’m a calm person anyway. I didn’t freeze, but I knew we needed to do something. Right before I pulled the fire alarm, I was able to contemplate about grabbing my stuff since I had no idea how serious it was, but I just ran outside instead. When we were outside, I could see smoke. It dawned on me and I was like, ‘there really is a fire.’”

Approximately 120 girls are housed in Liedman and none were injured in the fire, which was contained to the one room.

The firefighters told the girls that the fire started under their bunk bed. Both Webb and Alhanash have wondered what the cause of the fire could have been, but just like local officials, the girls have no idea how the fire could have started.

“We have no clue on what might have started the fire,” Alhanash said. “The firefighters investigated and they kept asking us questions. They couldn’t find anything.”

FBI investigators were even sent to look at the room and took time Wednesday to question both girls. Still no cause for the fire has been released. The girls have ruled out the possibility of the heater being the source even though no information from officials has been given out at press time.

“It’s not the heater. We had nothing plugged in except the fan, which was off,” Alhanash said. “We just know it was something underneath the bed.”

Currently, the girls have been relocated, but many of their possessions have been destroyed by fire, water or smoke damage.

“All of my electronic stuff is gone. All of my good clothes are messed up. Smoke damage left black marks all over my stuff. And all the things I was able to recover had smoke damage on it,” Webb said.

Alhanash also had many of her things destroyed.

“Half of the damage in the room was by fire and the other half was by water,” Alhanash said. “The fire started underneath the bed, and I had my suitcases and all my winter clothes there. My passport was ruined in the water damage too.”

According to the local officials, the girls’ situation was fortunate.

“The firefighters told us that if we had slept for even ten minutes longer, the difference with the smoke and fire, something dangerous would have happened,” Alhanash said.

Despite no immediate effects, the fire has left a lasting impression on Webb.

“I come from a big city, and I thought Monmouth would be a good change of setting for me. I knew I’d be safe here, and then a fire starts in the place I thought I would be the most safe at, in my own bed.”

Stevie Croisant

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