AMS smoked out by office fire

Faulty desk fan source of flames

Damage was limited mainly to AMS general manager Claude Sherren’s office, and is estimated to cost $20,000 to $30,000.
Damage was limited mainly to AMS general manager Claude Sherren’s office, and is estimated to cost $20,000 to $30,000.
Photo: 

A faulty desk fan caught fire around 2:30 p.m. June 13 in AMS General Manager Claude Sherren’s office.

The heat and flames destroyed almost everything in Sherren’s office and left the rest of the AMS wing clogged with smoke and ash. Fire Inspector Delbert Blakney, who investigated the office after the fire was extinguished, confirmed the cause was Sherren’s desk fan. He said the fan motor overheated, causing the fan’s plastic base to ignite. After the fan caught fire, nearby books and folders also ignited.

“There was not a great deal of fire damage, but the heat was sufficient enough to melt most of the books and other items in the room, as well as fill the entire area with thick black smoke and ash,” Blakney said.

Nobody was injured in the fire. Sherren was at home, having left his office earlier to deal with a flood in his basement.

Blakney credits the safety of the evacuation and quick containment of the fire to the help of Campus Security.

“They were terrific and very helpful,” Blakney said. “They got everyone out quickly and described perfectly the layout of the building and the best possible route to the office.”

The fire didn’t spread further than Sherren’s office, save for the bad smell and black ash that’s now being professionally cleaned from the hallway and other offices.

Sherren said his office, which was completely gutted after the fire, should be usable again soon. He said the organization is still fully functional.

“All things considered, the AMS is up and running almost just as it was before the fire,” he said. “I’ve been here for 13 years, so it was like having your second home destroyed on you. But its something we can work through,” he said, adding that the fire turned out to be more of a nuisance than a setback for the AMS.

“It’s a pain, but it’s not a big deal from the organization’s standpoint,” he said. “By September, no one will remember it even happened.”

AMS President Kingsley Chak said the initial projection for repairing the damage is $20,000-$30, 000, part of which involves cleaning ash out of the offices.

“They’re cleaning every single inch of the offices,” he said. “They’re hoping to open all the offices by the end of next week.” Chak said the AMS won’t have to pay for any of the damage caused by the fire.

“We’re covered by insurance,” he said. “One is AMS insurance, which covers the contents of the office. There is also University insurance, which covers the building.” Chak said the corridor housing the Academic Affairs Commission and human resources offices was expected to open yesterday. The offices of the Municipal Affairs Commission, Social Issues Commission, and Campus Activities Commission will not reopen until Thursday.

“They’re hoping to open all offices by the end of next week,” Chak said. “That’s the best they can give us.”

John Manning, AMS vice-president (operations), was among those present during the fire.

“We could see the fire through [Sherren’s] window,” he said. “It was bizarre to have an office fan catch fire, and we were all a little spooked.”

The fire occurred in the midst of the AMS’s annual financial audit by the accounting firm KPMG LLP, but Sherren said nothing critical to the audit was lost.

“Most of that stuff is stored electronically or in the controller’s room next door to mine,” he said. “The only glitch we had for the auditors is that the room we set them up in is now filled with smoke, so we had to move them to another office to work from.”

Manning agreed the fire won’t affect the auditing process.

“We haven’t taken inventory yet,” he said. “There were some valuable documents lost, no question, but all financial records were in the room next door. Most of what was lost is recoverable anyway.” Campus Security has blocked off the offices and AMS executive and service staff have been temporarily relocated to other offices. The AMS front desk has been moved to the AMS Walkhome Services desk in the JDUC main atrium.

—With files from Katherine Laidlaw

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.