Details surfacing in Buckingham fire

By Samuel Charles

A fire that struck one of Columbia’s residence halls was caused by a pan of cooking grease, according to the Chicago Fire Department. No one was injured, and the majority of damage was confined to the kitchen.

The stovetop fire in The Buckingham, 59 E. Van Buren St., broke out at approximately 10 a.m. on April 16 in room 1104. The fire was discovered by one of the room’s residents, junior journalism major Fallon Glick. She had returned to her room from working on a class project when she noticed the smoke and flames billowing from a pan on the stove.

“I was in my room and I heard a noise out in the kitchen,” Glick said. “I opened my door, walked out and our stove was on fire.”

Upon discovering the fire, Glick alerted her roommates and then searched for a fire alarm to pull. Unable to find one, she ran down to alert the security guard on duty. The security guard then dialed 911 and handed her the phone.

A message played on the building’s intercom system instructing students to remain in their rooms. However, many were compelled to venture down into the lobby.

“After the firefighters went up into our room, there was an announcement going around the building telling people to stay in their rooms because they had it under control,” Glick said. “A lot of people came down anyway because they could smell the smoke.”

According to Patrick O’Leary, one of the owners of The Buckingham, a smoke detector went off in the residents’ room, and there is a fire alarm outside the residents’ room.

“There was no general alarm that went off on the whole floor,” O’Leary said. “[That] would only be triggered by a sprinkler head or someone pulling the pull box.”

The pan on the stove was left there by another resident of the room, junior fashion design major Stymia Griffin. The night before, Griffin used the pan to fry her dinner. She said she turned the stove off and left the grease out overnight to cool.

“I got done cooking around 6 p.m. [Friday evening],” Griffin said. “The fire started 16 hours after. When I got up that morning everything was fine, then 10 or 20 minutes later, I heard my roommate yelling. When we walked out from the room, there was black smoke. I don’t know how it happened because grease doesn’t simmer for 16 hours.”

According to, a grease fire starts when oil or grease on a stove, oven or fryer get hot enough to ignite.

Though there was damage to the room, O’Leary said he is satisfied with the outcome of the emergency.

“The building’s systems reacted in the manner that they were designed to do,” O’Leary said. “We think that all participants involved in the duration of the emergency did what they were supposed to do, including the residents. They may have overlooked the pull box, but they did immediately go down and report the fire. No one was hurt, and there was minimal property damage. We’re dedicated to a safe building”

O’Leary added there has been no official estimate of the damage, but the smoke prompted the building’s management office to repaint the entire apartment.

The residents of the room have been staying in other vacant rooms of The Buckingham while room 1104 is repaired.