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Iowa State building evacuated because of fire

Phillip Sitter
Ames Tribune
Ames firefighters clean up the scene after a fire at Iowa State University's Ross Hall in the center of campus Monday morning,  Feb. 22, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

A fire Monday morning in a custodial closet led to the evacuation of an Iowa State University building, and the investigation into the fire continues.

Iowa State University Police and the Ames Fire Department responded at approximately 6:08 a.m. to a fire in a custodial closet on the first floor of Ross Hall, according to Iowa State's news service. 

When firefighters arrived on scene at that time, they "immediately encountered heavy dark smoke throughout the entire first floor" of the building, according to a news release from the City of Ames and fire department.

"With zero visibility, fire crews searched the first floor and found a fire in a custodial closet," according to the fire department. "Fire crews worked to knock down the flames while other crews were sent to the floors above to confirm everyone was out of the building. The fire was quickly brought under control and extinguished. Smoke had made its way through the entire building, and crews had to use multiple large fans to clear the smoke from the rest of the building."

There was one person inside Ross Hall at the time, and they made it out safely. The building is listed as opening each weekday at 7:30 a.m., though business hours for offices inside may be different. 

There were no injuries reported, and no damage estimate available as of Monday afternoon.

The university earlier reported that fire had been extinguished by 6:45 a.m.

Ross Hall is a multi-story building that was constructed in 1973. It mostly houses space for departments in the university's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, including English, general instruction, political science and history. 

Ames Fire Chief Richard Higgins said the heaviest fire damage was confined to the custodial closet, and the smoke damage was mostly confined to the first floor of the building.

He said a joint fire investigation team between Iowa State campus police and the Ames Fire Department is looking into the fire.

Ames firefighters clean up the scene after a fire at Iowa State University's Ross Hall in the center of campus Monday morning, Feb. 22, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

Ross Hall was closed Monday because of the fire, and classes scheduled for the day there were to be moved online or to another location. Instructors were to notify students of those alternate arrangements.

The university added in the afternoon, "Facilities Planning and Management is working with ServiceMaster on cleanup, which will take several days. At this time, all classes scheduled to meet in Ross Hall have been relocated for two weeks. Department chairs will provide updates to instructors who have offices in the building."

The Ames Fire Department also noted in its news release from the city that "At this fire, firefighters were able to quickly access fire hydrants that had been cleared of snow. The Ames Fire Department reminds residents and businesses to make sure nearby fire hydrants are visible and have at least a 3-foot clear area around them. This will ensure that firefighters can quickly identify and connect to fire hydrants. For assistance removing snow around a fire hydrant in your neighborhood, call 515-239-5109."

Higgins said two engines, a ladder truck and command vehicle responded to the fire with approximately 16 firefighters. 

Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be reached via email at psitter@gannett.com. He is on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.