Over ten local fire departments responded to the alarm. Trucks rushed from neighboring Greenfield and from as far away as Amherst. Director of Facilities Chuck Williams, a former fire chief, helped coordinate the teams throughout the night’s chaos.
The December 17 fire in the Deerfield dining hall not only brought many to campus, but also was an unusually dangerous situation for even trained firemen. Along with the fire departments and Deerfield personnel, “we had to call in Massachusetts Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT). There were so many chemicals literally boiling together,” said Director of Safety and Security David Gendron. The HAZMAT agents checked for dangerous chemicals, and approved the air quality before anyone could reenter the building the next morning.
Security Officer Ron Hnath, who had discovered the fire at 10:25 PM when he received a message on his pager that there was a fire in the basement of the dining hall was overcome by the smoke and was forced to leave and notify the fire departments, after trying to extinguish the fire.
Inside, the damage was extensive, especially in the basement of the building. The flames turned the laundry room, the source of the fire, into a blackened room full of charred metal.
The intensity of the fire even created a hole through the cement floor at its origin. Many of the other downstairs rooms and hallways faced burns and substantial smoke damage.