Repairs Continue at Brown Hall Following Thursday Fire

Officials hope to allow third-floor residents to return soon to their rooms

Repair teams are continuing to remove soot, replace hallway ceiling tiles and ventilate smoke odors following a fire in a Brown Hall room on Thursday evening. Duke officials said Sunday they have also carried out testing for possible lead or asbestos contamination in the residence hall and have found no concerns outside of the room where the fire occurred.

A fire remediation contractor has been working actively on the scene, focusing on the third floor and attic, which were most affected by the fire. Students living on the third floor were relocated Thursday to other campus rooms, while those on the first and second floors were allowed to return. Duke officials hope students can return to the third floor soon, except to the room where the fire occurred.

"Our office of occupational and environmental safety (OESO) has been inspecting the remediation process daily and everyone is making good progress, but we will only give the OK for students to reoccupy the third floor when we are satisfied it is safe to do so," said Rick Johnson, assistant vice president of Student Affairs for housing, dining and residence life.

Officials continue to operate "negative air" systems on the floor to further ventilate the affected areas. Duke's residence life office has been laundering and dry cleaning items of clothing and bedding from third floor residents, to remove any soot and odor.

OESO Director Wayne Thomann, whose team initiated extensive testing soon after the blaze was extinguished, added that all of the air samples that were collected during a period of high activity, extensive cleaning and inspection were negative for asbestos fibers. 

"The results showed no significant exposure risk to lead or asbestos during the fire response or the subsequent clean-up," he said. "Nonetheless, just to be cautious, we are carrying out asbestos abatement measures in the room." 

Campus safety officials said their concerns are now focused on the one room, with tests showing the rest of the third floor and the building to be safe from lead or asbestos exposure. "We’ve taken every precaution to prevent any contaminants from escaping the room," Thomann said.