Fort Lewis College residents woke up to floods Thursday morning after a pipe burst at midnight on Wednesday in Escalante Hall.
Jayson Blackhair and his roommate, Bryson Watson, live across the hall from the boiler room, where it happened.
When Blackhair first noticed the water, he initially thought that it was coming from his mini fridge, but soon saw that it was pouring in from under his door. He looked across the hall and saw that the water was coming from the boiler room and spreading across the hall, he said.
“That’s when our RA came out and started knocking on doors to let everyone know, ‘Hey, there’s a real big flood coming,’” he said.
Blachair said residents were asked to unplug everything to keep electricity away from the water. Then, residents picked up their things to keep them dry.
From there, affected residents moved to the lounge in Escalante and other residents were notified, Blackhair said.
Fort Lewis Police arrived at the scene about 30 minutes after the incident, Blackhair said.
James Estelle, the assistant director of facilities, was notified around the same time police arrived, he said.
When he arrived, there was about 1.5 inches of water throughout the entire lower south wing of Escalante, he said.
“It was definitely a rough night for everyone, not going to lie, but considering what was happening, I am super pleased with the response time and how everyone came together,” Estelle said.
As of now, the student housing office has allowed affected residents to move to an open room in a different residence hall, or an unaffected area in Escalante, free of charge, Estelle said.
“We were trying to be candid with students and say ‘You can stay here, if you want, but it’s going to be hot, it’s going to be noisy, and there’s going to be people coming in and out to empty buckets,” Estelle said.
On Friday, Blackhair and Watson went to the student housing office to find a new place to live.
“It seems like almost everyone in that hallway did the same,” Blackhair said. “Bader Snyder was the only place available.”
Those who did choose to move are welcome to stay in their new room until the end of the semester, Estelle said.
To further assist those affected, all of the laundry machines in Escalante were made to be free, as well as a few of the laundry machines in the Centennial Complex, Estelle said.
At the time of the incident, however, it was physical plant and their efforts to solve the problem that Estelle said he was grateful for.
“If they hadn’t had such an intimate knowledge of the building and the plumbing system, both inside and outside, then it would have taken a lot longer and there would have been a lot more water and a lot more damage,” he said.
A local cleaning and disaster restoration company also arrived at the scene soon after Estelle did and started removing the water with a wet vac, he said.
The next morning, the company arrived with a crew and equipment, such as dehumidifiers and industrial grade air movers, for every room and the hall, Estelle said.
“I use to work disaster restoration, so I’ve seen buildings in that condition a lot, and I was just so happy at the end, even though I was tired,” Estelle said. “I went ‘Wow, that went about as good as it could have possibly gone.’”
Blackhair was one of the eight people who spent the night in West Hall on Wednesday night, but stayed with a friend on Thursday night.
On Thursday, Blackhair was able to go back to his room and get a few things, but he could not stay. Blackhair said that he does not look forward to moving his stuff, but he is excited to live in Bader Snyder.
Photos courtesy of Jayson Blackhair