“May I have your attention, please. May I have your attention, please,” an automated announcement sounded. “An alarm has been activated in the building. Please proceed to the stairways and exit the building. Do not use the elevators.”
At 3:31 a.m. on Saturday, the Palo Alto Fire Department and the Stanford University Department of Public Safety responded to a fire in Escondido Village Graduate Residences Building A (EVGR-A), which resulted in a partial evacuation of the building and triggered the sprinklers. The alarms did not stop for three hours, ringing past 6 a.m, according to fifth floor residents. Most of the evacuated students were able to return to their rooms by 8 a.m.
Residents described the alarms as “loud as hell” and like “being on an airplane runway.”
“We weren’t sure what was going on,” said Bryce Huerta ’21. “The alarms just kinda kept going.”
Students frantically got up and ran to their designated evacuation points, some wrapped in blankets, others barefoot.
Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris said the fire originated in the bathroom of a student apartment. The cause of the fire remains unknown, though the county fire marshal and the Palo Alto Fire Department have begun investigating its origin.
Flooding occurred in parts of EVGR-A as the building’s sprinkler system went off. This caused varying levels of water damage for students on the first through fourth floors, Harris wrote.
“When we came back, we were welcomed by some extremely flooded rooms,” said Luka Levi ’21.
Housing operations staff and contractors have begun the water extraction process, placing fans in rooms and hallways, wrote Orlando White, associate dean in residence, in an email to EVGR-A residents.
Affected students had to relocate to Escondido Village Graduate Residences Building B, and Assistant Dean of Students Christopher Carter instructed them to “pack enough belongings for a week.”
Around 4:30 a.m., fire marshals permitted all students not on the fourth floor to return to their rooms, but alarms did not stop until approximately 6:20 a.m, according to fifth floor residents. According to building security, the alarm system is designed such that alarms cannot be turned off for one floor without turning them off for the whole building.
“I think at that point, people just wanted to sleep,” Levi said.
“My experience was pretty horrible,” said Sara Davidova ’23. “It’s Week 8, so we’re already sleep-deprived, and on the day when we are supposed to catch up on sleep, we lose the most valuable portion of it.”