This article will continually be updated as more information is released.
Department heads of Ross Hall have met daily since the fire in a custodial hall closet. Currently, an emergency response team is removing the ceiling tiles on every floor and continuing with the cleaning process. The building will remain closed for several weeks.
The cement walls of the first floor are partly coated matte black with soot. Mack Shelley, chair of the political science department, said there was never a test on the chemicals in the air after the fire, and he appreciated the work of the emergency response team.
“They are putting themself [in] harm’s way while going out of their way to be polite,” Shelley said. “Their work is incredibly impressive.”
Classrooms, offices and the computer labs of Ross all remain in fairly good condition with most walls covered with protective plastic. Shelley said the university has done a really good job managing everything considering the current circumstance of this year.
“This is on top of COVID, and on top of that the derecho, so you can only guess the plague of the locust is next, maybe an earthquake for amusement,” Shelley joked. “It is kind of sad, but we have sort of been used to one disaster after another.”
Ross Hall will remain closed until further notice after a fire started in the custodial closet. Police say one person was in the building at the time but they made it out safely.
Iowa State University Police and Ames Fire Department responded to the fire around 6:08 a.m. and the fire was out by 6:45 a.m., according to a university release. The building experienced smoke damage and there is an investigation taking place.
According to a release from the City of Ames, when firefighters entered the building they immediately encountered heavy, dark smoke throughout the entire first floor, with zero visibility.
Firefights quickly controlled and extinguished the fire while the smoke extended throughout the entire building. Estimates are not available at this time.
Beate Schmittmann, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, released a statement shortly after.
Instructors will inform students of any alternative arrangements. Classes scheduled to take place in Ross are now to meet online or at a different location.
Schmittmann explained that there is a lot of cleanup work to do and as a result the building may be inaccessible for a few days. Ross was constructed in 1973 and is home to multiple departments including:
Faculty Plan and Management
Iowa State University General Instructors
Iowa State University general use
IT Services CIO
Philosophy and religion
The entire building is 85,753 total square feet and holds a combination of classrooms, faculty offices and conference rooms. According to the release, there is a lot of smoke that needs to be cleared out and the sprinkler system did not deploy.
Angie Hunt, the communications specialist for Iowa State University News Service, said because of the time Ross Hall was constructed, there were no sprinklers required at the time. Ross Hall was also in the process of construction. According to Hunt, the project in Ross is nearly complete and the cleanup should not disrupt their work.
When Schmittmann walked around the building Monday after the fire, she said there was soot on the walls and a strong smell of smoke and burned materials.
“My first thought this morning was — thank goodness this is happening very early in the morning when very few people should be in the building,” Schmittmann said in an emailed statement. “Another point of comfort is that we all know how to teach online — so moving classes from in-person to online is relatively smooth.”