Students return to residence hall after fire sparks campuswide evacuation


WASHINGTON — Students have no Wi-Fi, limited electricity and are being advised to not use dormitory bathrooms after an underground fire at American University led to a campus-wide evacuation for hours on Saturday morning.

D.C. Fire and Pepco crews responded to a burning subterranean transformer near AU’s Hughes Hall around 8 a.m. All students on the main campus were evacuated to the quad, as fire officials worked to contain flames leaping from underground with smoke billowing over residence halls.

The fire was extinguished shortly after 10 a.m. As a precaution, the majority of AU’s students were moved across Nebraska Avenue to nearby east campus, and university officials said buildings were being assessed for reoccupation. The fire did not spread to nearby residence halls.

Students were able to re-enter Hughes Hall around 1:46 p.m. Saturday. The university said not all power outlets were operational and that, while the water is usable, it’s still low in the bathrooms.

Some buildings, including Hughes Hall, are also running on emergency power with limited services, the university said.

No injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire was unclear. Classes on main campus were canceled for the rest of the day.

The university is providing food service until 7 p.m. at the Washington College of Law for residential and displaced students.

A video tweeted by D.C. fire showed the flames:

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital reporter and editor in June 2018. He is a writer and photojournalist focusing on politics, political activism and national affairs, with recent multimedia contributions to Reuters, MSNBC and PBS.

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