Fire damages school buildings

By Katy Nielsen

An early morning fire at 1326 S. Michigan Ave. caused the cancellation of numerous Columbia classes Sept. 7 through Sept. 10. However, quick action by a restoration company made it possible for classes to resume on Sept. 13.

The fire did not reach Columbia property, but smoke consumed the entire block and infiltrated the Dance Center, 1306 S. Michigan Ave., and the Sherwood Conservatory of Music, 1312 S. Michigan Ave.

Last week Columbia hired J.C. Restoration to remove smoke traces from the buildings.

“We’ve had the buildings thoroughly cleaned by a restoration contractor that specializes in getting the smell of smoke out of buildings,” said John Kavouris, associate vice president of Facilities and Construction.

“Carpets were cleaned and the walls were washed down,” Kavouris said.

The company used chemicals to remove soot, smoke particles, air scrubbers and clean the smoke out of the air.

“The buildings sustained no physical damage, no water damage, no fire damage,” Kavouris said, who visited both Columbia buildings on Sept. 10.

“There were probably 50 people in there cleaning everything,” said Daureen Salvador, director of administration in the Music Department.  “It looked like quite an undertaking.”

Bonnie Brooks, chair of the Dance Department, who works in the Dance Center went into the building on Sept. 10 when it opened for administration.

“It was really impressive to see the crews that have been here,” Brooks said. “The restoration team was careful and thorough.”

Robert Koverman, associate vice president of Safety and Security, said there was no sustainable damage to any of the campus buildings.

Kavouris walked through the buildings on Sept. 10 and said, “They smell fantastic” and “have never been so clean.”

According to Kavouris, the cleanup process took three days.

“Everybody worked hard, the buildings are very clean.  I couldn’t smell any smoke at all,” Kavouris said.

He said the smell inside the buildings on Sept. 10 was fresher than the air outside on the 1300 block of South Michigan Avenue.

In terms of class cancellations, students have the option to make up missed classes, but they are not required to do so

At 3 a.m. on Sept 7, the Chicago Fire Department responded to a transformer fire at the building, which eventually caused its roof to collapse, but as of press time, the exact cause of the fire is still unknown. Windy conditions made it more difficult to extinguish the fire, said Second Battalion Chief Joe Goulde.

“It’s quite a thing to be thankful the whole block didn’t go up [in flames],” Brooks said. “We were really fortunate.”

Jason Johnson, field supervisor at Express Board-Up Services, Inc., said, “The flames were 10 or 15 feet high. It started in the back and worked its way up.”

While the fire was big, Johnson said he has seen worse.

“The building is destroyed, but no one got hurt,” Johnson said. “That’s all that matters in the end.”