Huntington, Ind.— A small fire broke out in the Merillat Centre for the Arts shortly before 8:00 p.m. on May 16. Firefighters were summoned to the building by smoke alarms. One automatic sprinkler head was triggered by the blaze. It contained the fire within the extreme west end of the theatre scene shop until firefighters arrived to extinguish the blaze. Two fire trucks were dispatched to the scene. One wall-mounted fire extinguisher was discharged. The precise cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
No one was injured. It is believed the Merillat Centre was unoccupied at the time.
The fire door between the scene shop and the main stage closed automatically, as designed, further preventing the spread of fire to the main auditorium. Flames destroyed an electric stove and a few props stored on a shelf at the west end of the scene shop. Additional smoke and water damage occurred in the main auditorium, on the main stage, and in the lower level studio theatre, costume storage area, and Green Room. The full extent of the damage has not yet been determined.
More than 30 faculty, staff, and students arrived to help clean up. College president G. Blair Dowden, his wife Chris, son Beau, and daughter Marli were among the many college volunteers who labored well after midnight. "I am so thankful for the willing spirit of so many members of our campus community," said Dr. Dowden. "Everyone pitched in to help. It was so encouraging to see everyone pull together like a family."
"We were very impressed by the timely response of local firefighters," said Jerry Gressley, director of the physical plant at Huntington College. "They were here in no time, and did a very professional, thorough job. We are so thankful for their fast response."
Dowden agreed. "With so much smoke, the fire appeared much worse than it actually was. We are very, very grateful to the firefighters who arrived so quickly to put out the flames."
The fire brought an unexpected end to an already eventful day. Huntington College conducted its 100th commencement exercises earlier that afternoon. The four-year, Christian liberal arts school graduated a record number of students.
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