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24 students have been moved into temporary accommodation following the fire in Pendle Avenue last month.
The fire originated in a bin store behind Pendle Block 12. It is thought to have been caused by an unextinguished portable barbecue.
The Lancaster Fire Service dealt with the incident, which took place on April 18 at 7:20pm. Heat from the fire caused severe damage to the outside of the Pendle block, scorching brickwork and shattering the windows. Two first floor bedrooms and their contents were damaged by smoke but no-one was hurt. The estimated cost of the fire is £50,000.
University safety officers have issued a reminder to students stating that portable barbeques should not be used on or near surfaces that could catch fire or be damaged and completely extinguished before being placed in bins.
Mark Salisbury of university security, said: “It is requested that all staff and students co-operate with these procedures in order to minimise risk. New steel containers are being purchased in the short term and these should be used to dispose of all portable barbeques. Longer term, the University is producing options for fixed barbeque facilities throughout campus and changes to the use of portable barbeques will be kept under review.”
According to sources the university’s disciplinary committee is reluctant to impose an outright ban on portable barbeques although this may yet become the case.
Despite the fire having damaged only two rooms, all the residents of Block 12 have been relocated while repair work is underway in order to not disturb their exam preparation. Emma Inglesant, a Block 12 resident, was sat in her flat mate’s room at the time the fire began. They left his room just as an aerosol can exploded.
“We were all sat in one of our friend’s room,” Ms Inglesant said. “Usually the steam from the launderette comes up past the window and we thought ‘the steams a bit black’. Then the whole room went black. We moved into the room next door as that’s exactly where it [the fire] was. We had the window open looking down at it. We closed the window and then, literarily five seconds later, an aerosol can blew. The flames shot up past where we could see.”
She added: “The fire alarm didn’t go off because the fire was outside of the building and they’re heat activated. One of my flat mates hit the fire alarm on our way out.”
Three fire engines were called to the scene. Once the fire had been extinguished the students were allowed to collect an over night bag on the Saturday. They were allowed back in their rooms on Sunday in order to pack enough for a week. By Wednesday it was clear the repair work would take some weeks to complete. A removal company was hired to help move the students’ belongings to Cartmel.