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ECC and Iowa Falls community work together following fire

IOWA FALLS – Ellsworth Community College is overcoming some unexpected obstacles following a small fire in Thompson Hall, a men’s dormitory housing nearly 150 students. The fire, though not the way the College would have wanted to start the school year, brought both Ellsworth employees and the Iowa Falls community together to help the students.

On Wednesday, Aug. 28 just after 3 pm, according to the state fire marshall, a fire started in a basement level custodial closet. An electrical outlet shorted and several mattresses stored in the room caught fire. The fire was contained to that room but smoke spread throughout the building, causing extensive smoke damage. No serious injuries occurred, but two students were transported to a local medical facility and treated for smoke inhalation as a precaution; they were released the same day.

When the smoke and fire were originally detected, students were quickly evacuated and police and fire responded immediately to extinguish the fire and secure the area. Hardin County emergency personnel began working with College staff to help find temporary housing options for students. ECC staff immediately gathered students and began finding hotel rooms, personal homes, and cots to be placed in other occupied campus housing. The housing personnel ensured every student was accounted for and had a place to sleep.

“While the fire is a tragedy, the response exemplified a community and college caring for students and students caring for each other,” commented IVCCD Chancellor Kristie Fisher. “It was amazing to watch.”

The Iowa Falls community and ECC employees have been hard at work to make students as comfortable as possible during this difficult time. “We would like to thank the community, especially those who donated. Fire, police and emergency management responded quickly and have helped everyone so much,” said Fisher. “I want to thank all the ECC staff and faculty who worked into the night and who will continue to be working this holiday weekend.”

Students were allowed to return to their dorm rooms on Thursday, Aug. 29 to retrieve their belongings. In order to restore Thompson Hall, everything will need to be removed and cleaned. A smoke abatement company started the restoration process Thursday evening and will continue to work until the building is clean. In addition to the smoke abatement restoration, the fire marshal’s office will need to recertify the electrical and alarm systems before students may return.

“While this is a trying time for those displaced by the fire, I have been impressed with the resilience and patience of our students,” commented ECC Provost Martin Reimer. “They have shown tremendous maturity and understanding during the last two days. I am also grateful for the generosity of our community, the hard work of our faculty and staff, the compassion of our students, and the reliability of the first responders and community volunteers. I have said many times that Ellsworth is blessed to be in such a caring community. Times like these certainly prove that to be true.”

The College is asking for donations for the nearly 150 students who have been displaced by the fire. These students need men’s clothing, snack food, beverages, and personal care items. Donations can be delivered to Kruse Main lobby on the ECC campus in Iowa Falls. Monetary donations made to the Ellsworth College Foundation will also give the College the ability to address other student needs as they occur. All donations will be greatly appreciated.

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