A small electrical fire in a transformer forced the evacuation of the Gillett and Hudson residence halls on the MU campus around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday.
Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief Steven Sapp said a transformer malfunctioned, causing both halls to lose power. Firefighters quickly arrived at the scene, and power to the buildings was immediately shut off so that the fire would be contained in the transformer and burn itself out, Sapp said.
“The only way to put that fire out is to de-energize the transformers,” Sapp said.
The fire was out about an hour after it began, he said.
Students said the fire alarms began going off five to 15 minutes after the power went off.
“We were just chilling in the first-floor lounge,” said Sean Wiltse, a resident of the first floor of Hudson Hall. “We started seeing a lot of smoke from the Rollins lounge, then a PA (peer adviser) told us to go outside.”
Sapp said two students had to be rescued from an elevator.
Power plant officials were called to the scene to investigate, and Sapp said he thought power would be restored to the building by rerouting the electricity. He said it would be necessary during that time to temporarily shut off power in the Plaza 900 dining hall and College Avenue dorms.
Students were expected to be allowed back in the buildings between midnight and 2 a.m., when power would be restored. Memorial Union, the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center and Brady Commons were kept open until students could return to their rooms.