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Dryer Erupts in Flames, Laundry Access Restricted in Plaza Towers

Fire department responding to the fire. Photo by Dem Conyers.

On Wednesday evening, Howard Plaza Towers East residents were alerted by an alarm to evacuate the building due to a fire in a laundry room that erupted at 4:20 p.m., according to a graduate assistant. An official notification from AlertHU was sent to the Howard community at 4:45 p.m. instructing that the residence “should be evacuated immediately.”

Building management said that a fire erupted from a dryer in the third-floor laundry room which alerted the fire panel and subsequently the D.C. Fire Department. The fire department alerted Towers East maintenance about where the fire started, and maintenance eliminated it with a dry chemical extinguisher, according to a firefighter at the scene. Firefighters arrived at the residence at 4:32 p.m. after the fire was put out to inspect the incident.

No substantial damage was sustained to the laundry room or the rest of the dormitory, however the firefighter shared that the clothes inside of the dryer were “severely burnt.” Residents also recalled seeing thick smoke in the third-floor hallways and some reported being able to smell smoke from the 10th floor. 

At 5:26 p.m., an “all clear” was issued to students to resume normal activities as “the fire in East Towers has concluded.”

Junior political science major Juliana Boye was among those who were evacuated. She shared that she was initially under the impression that the fire was caused by “someone’s cooking.”

“I didn’t know it was real at first,” Boye said. “Me and my roommate heard the fire alarm going off but it usually always goes off. Then we heard it was real and we got up and started rushing and ran out.”

Boye was not the only student who did not think the fire was “real.” Sophomore journalism major Lauren Nutall, who lived on the ninth-floor, had a similar reaction.

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“I initially didn’t take it seriously, but then I heard that it was a real fire caused by a dryer malfunction. I was inside until I got a text from my friend saying it was real,” Nutall said. 

Following Wednesday’s fire, the third-floor laundry room will be “offline until further notice” and all washers and dryers in Towers East and West will be unavailable between the hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until March 3, according to an email sent to students from a graduate assistant. During these hours, “Residents caught using the units will be subjected to a fine and a loss of visitation,” the email stated.  

While the cause for the dryer fire is currently unknown, The National Fire Protection Association reported that dryers and washing machines “cause an average of 15,970 fires each year” with dryers causing 92 percent of the fires. Electric dryers have also been shown to cause fires at two times the rate of gas dryers, due to “higher heat discharge” and “lint buildup.”

The story is developing and The Hilltop will continue to update this article as new information is available.

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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