Seniors Rayni Hartman and Carissa Campbell woke up to pounding on their window and shouts of warning. Around 1:15 a.m. April 13, their sleep-addled minds first credited the disruption to a dream, but as the warnings continued and the shouts of “fire” and “get out” became clear, Hartman and Campbell quickly woke and rushed to exit the house.
A fire had broken out on their back porch and was gaining traction toward the entire house.
“I looked around the back corner of the house and I saw the back porch was engulfed in fire,” Hartman said. “We didn’t even hear the smoke alarms until we were heading out the front door.”
After rushing out of the house, Hartman was informed that the police had already been called and on their way. Campbell said it took the fire department less than five minutes to arrive on the scene. The fire had since spread to their kitchen which was the first room connected to the back porch. The fire also affected the attic. Hartman said the fire took about an hour and a half to stop.
During that time, Hartman and Campbell called their friends, Sophia Decker and Dara Fitzmaurice, to arrange a place to stay for the rest of the night. Hartman said people who lived nearby offered bottled water and food to them. One person even brought their dog over to let Hartman and Campbell destress by petting the dog.
“I am just so overwhelmed with how much support and help we received, especially people who didn’t even know us who were just walking by and saw it happening. They came up and made sure everyone was okay,” Hartman said.
While they were waiting for the fire to stop, Hartman and Campbell discussed what items they hoped would be okay. The first thing that came to mind was their cap and gown for graduation. It was the first thing they grabbed once the house was clear for entry.
The fire did not affect either of the women’s rooms and they were able grab as many things as they could under the fire department’s supervision.
Once at Decker and Fitzmaurice’s house, Hartman and Campbell recall having trouble falling asleep. Campbell recalls feeling like she was going to hear the same pounding and yelling that had originally alerted her to the fire, so it took her a while to relax. The same feelings continued to affect her for a few days after.
“On Wednesday morning, when we got back to our friends house and were trying to fall asleep, I kept hearing that guy’s voice, the sound of him banging on the window and him saying ‘get up, get up, get out’,” Hartman said.
Hartman and Campbell said their families were relieved to hear they both were okay. Both students are thankful for the support of their friends and family. The nursing department reached out to Hartman in the aftermath of the fire to offer help with taking stuff out of the house and donating supplies. Both of the seniors said their professors were completely understanding, so they don’t feel behind in any classes.
The fire was a freak accident, according to Hartman. The fire department’s unofficial cause was a powerline that could’ve sparked and hit the porch. The fire didn’t reach either of their bedrooms so most of their personal belongings were safe.
“[The next day] was a mess, like think of your most chaotic day and probably times that by 5,” Campbell said. “We went in there to get our stuff packed up — our back door was blown off — we started in the kitchen, and it was just the water and debris soaked into our shoes, and my feet were soaked, and it was cold. It just sounded gross, and it looked super eerie.”
Hartman and Campbell’s landlord reached out after the event to offer an empty apartment for them to live in for the remainder of their year. They said it took a lot of stress off their back to have a new place to live figured out so quickly.
The fire took place at the end of Hartman and Campbell’s senior years. It came after living in the house for two years.
To end the year, both Hartman and Campbell hope there are no more disruptions and that they can make positive memories of their last few weeks on campus.
“It made me more thankful for my material items, my support, my roommate of course ‘cause we had to go through that together,” Campbell said. “Overall, it has really humbled me and made me a lot more grateful for what I have.”