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Fire at COM Forces Evacuation

Decision pending on when building will reopen


Updated, 1 p.m. Friday, March 25: COM is closed for the day. No decision has been made as yet on whether it will reopen for classes Monday. A graduate information session scheduled to be held at COM on Saturday, March 26, has been relocated to the College of Arts & Sciences, Room 116, from noon to 2 p.m. Check on BU Today for further updates.

Boston firefighters extinguished a fire in a recording studio Friday morning at the student-run WTBU radio station at the College of Communication. The studio is on third floor of the building at 640 Commonwealth Ave. Morse Auditorium is open as a shelter for faculty and students.

Peter Fiedler (COM’77), vice president for administrative services, says three students and two BU Police Department officers have been transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for treatment of smoke inhalation. A firefighter also was brought there after his face was injured while moving a grate. None of the injuries is life-threatening, the Boston Fire Department reports.

The three-alarm fire, believed to have been caused by an equipment malfunction, summoned at least 15 police, fire, and ambulance vehicles to the school, which sustained heavy water damage. The fire department reported high gas levels in the heavily insulated studio, which has ceased broadcasting until further notice.

BU Today spoke to Jenna Perlman (COM’18, CAS’18), a reporter for television station BUTV, this morning outside the building as onlookers milled about. She said her morning show was preparing go on air when a fellow student announced, “Everyone get out—it’s a fire.”

“We originally thought that it was an electric fire from one of the lights in our studio, but it turned out to be a fire from inside WTBU,” she said. Her show, Good Morning BU, goes live at 10 a.m. “Of course, we’re not going live” today, Perlman added.

The fire department estimates the building damage at $500,000. BU Chief of Police Thomas Robbins, who was on the scene, said the building had been evacuated. Robbins said several students were covered with soot when they left the building.

Students are advised to stay clear of the area.

MBTA B Line trolley service had been suspended from Kenmore Square to Packard’s Corner, but has now been restored.

Individual counseling support for students, faculty, and staff, on campus or abroad, can be arranged at any time through the following resources:

  • Marsh Chapel chaplains can be reached at 617-353-3560.
  • Behavioral Medicine providers at Student Health Services can be reached at 617-353-3569.
  • Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center (SARP) counselors can be reached at 617-353-SARP (7277).
  • Counseling is also available for faculty and staff through the Faculty & Staff Assistance Office, 617-353-5381.


9 Comments on Fire at COM Forces Evacuation

  • Student on 03.25.2016 at 12:17 pm

    I seriously hope this is a lesson and a wake up call to the BU admin. How can you expect this not to happen when you literally POUR funds into SMG (it will always be SMG to me), making the building absolutely immaculate and the faculty inside, and then completely ignore the archaic build of all the other buildings ?! Have you been in CAS lately? And the psychology department? Don’t even get me started on COM. Just because these departments aren’t bringing in the big bucks doesn’t mean you have to ignore them. Absolutely ridiculous. My uncle got his phd in psychology from BU in the 90s and says the building looks EXACTLY the same since he started there.

    • Laura on 03.28.2016 at 2:48 pm

      This is EXACTLY what I thought when I read this article. I was in CAS about 5 years ago, and I would be amazed if they have made any changes to the dirty retro high school building.

  • EK on 03.25.2016 at 1:01 pm

    I was a COM student in the early 90s and the building was a disaster then. I’m sad to hear that nothing has changed. I remember evacuating out of the basement level once due to smoke in the halls. Hopefully today’s incident will motivate BU to focus on some improvements at COM, rather than continuing to let it completely deteriorate.

  • Concerned on 03.25.2016 at 1:11 pm

    I’m wondering if this (and other) buildings have/had sprinklers protection?

  • cydney on 03.25.2016 at 1:29 pm

    The money comes from donors, not from the university. A Questrom (named for the couple who donated money to the college themselves) grad goes out in the world, is successful, then wants to give back to their college for helping them get there, the university cannot then put the money into a different college. It’s one of the unfortunate things about communications – it’s an important, satisfying field to be in, but doesn’t often make people rich. As such, there’s no one to donate to improve the facility.

    • From Inside Alumni Relations on 03.26.2016 at 8:38 pm

      Any alumni that makes a gift has the option to give the gift to a specific school, a particular fund, or even a mentor. The true misfortune is that not all alumni are aware of where their funds can go if they choose to give.

  • Alum on 03.25.2016 at 3:04 pm

    I have to give major credit to the BU administration regarding renovations in general. The campus has transformed amazingly over the past 10 years.

    I disagree that CAS and COM have been overlooked for major renovations simply because donations to these two colleges is lower than SMG. BU has spent a considerable amount of money directly from university resources on major projects – even if some percent came from project specific donations.

    Also understand that about 20 years ago, SMG had most classes in the CAS / Theology buildings. They had to build an entirely new building – which was high in terms of both quality of materials, and design. High quality new construction has been pretty standard at BU over the past 20 years – just look at photonics, the student resource center, and the student village. If you look at the upkeep / renovation costs since SMG was first constructed, it’s probably lower than CAS.

    All of that being said, it’s time BU made a full renovation of COM and CAS a priority. Nearly every undergrad takes classes at COM and CAS at some point. CAS looks like a high school, and COM is just a dump – not exactly in line with the goals and ambitions of a major research university. Renovating these two building would have a bigger impact on the average student than renovating any other academic facility.

    • A Current Student on 03.26.2016 at 8:43 pm

      Very well put. The overhead for these buildings can be immense. BU Admin is working to make these newer buildings energy efficient and safe. It is unfortunate that COM has been neglected by these renovations and that has mostly to do with selective prioritization. The 5 year plan is never entirely candid for students and that’s what were stuck with currently.

  • Alum on 03.29.2016 at 12:35 pm

    It’s a shame that people are using this article as a platform to plea their case for better facilities. Accidents happen. Let’s all be thankful that no one was seriously injured and that everyone is safe.

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