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A Set of Overnight Fires Forces Evacuations at UNC Dorm

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CHAPEL HILL — Chapel Hill authorities are investigating two suspicious overnight fires atUNC-Chapel Hill.

The fires happened within two hours of each other at Morrison dorm. The first fire started in a trash can on the seventh floor. A second fire started in a fourth-floor lounge.

In both cases, officials had a hard time getting students to evacuate the building. While no one was hurt in the fires, officials are still concerned.

Students inside the building heard fire alarms, smelled smoke and saw firefighters going door-to-door evacuating residents. Still, some refused to leave.

"We had a significant problem trying to get the kids to evacuate the building," says Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones. "It's not that unusual when the alarms go off -- there's a number of false alarms -- that they will either sleep through them or in some cases they just refuse to leave the building because it's an inconvenience."

Fire officials say it is a dangerous problem on other campuses as well. A fire at Shaw University a month ago yielded the same results. Students there say there are so many false alarms that they are skeptical whenever the alarm rings.

The Morrison dorm at UNC has had 18 fire alarms since the beginning of the year, and only two were for actual fires.

School officials say they hold mandatory meetings and show videos every year stressing the importance of evacuation during every fire alarm, but they say there will always be students who do not follow the rules.

Officials say the two separate fires raise suspicion, but that is all they will say at this time.