By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — SALEM — Fire officials blamed a deep fryer for igniting a kitchen blaze in a Salem State University residential building that displaced more than a dozen students yesterday evening.
The blaze on the third floor of Building 14 at the Bates housing complex was called into the Fire Department at 6:24 p.m. Engine 5 arrived first on scene and Lt. Gerard Frechette and firefighter Thomas Tremblay immediately encountered smoke when they entered the first floor of the building, said Deputy fire Chief Brian Harrington.
The two firefighters grabbed an extinguisher and made their way to third floor, where they found the fire in an apartment shared by six students. They searched the apartment, determined it was empty and quickly knocked the blaze down.
Harrington said the fire appeared to have originated from a deep fryer, though it was unclear exactly what went wrong.
“Whether or not it was left unattended, or if it was a manufacturer defect, we don’t know,” he said. “They said they tried to unplug it every time.”
The fire caused significant damage to the kitchen but did not extend beyond it. The entire unit sustained extensive water damage due to the sprinkler activation, as did the units on two of the floors below.
Harrington estimated the total damage at $20,000 and said he believed the students in all three units would be displaced — a total of 14 people, more than half the building’s occupants.
No injuries were reported.
The Salem News was unable to reach a Salem State University representative for comment last night.