Fire in Plunkett Center

A fire broke out inside the walls of the Plunkett Center early Thursday morning.

No one was in the building, according to Stephen Ross, Campus Public Safety co-director.

“We were notified because of the alarms and went to the building to let the fire department in the doors,” he said.

The automatic fire alarm detected smoke at 6:27 a.m. Thursday, and within minutes three fire engines arrived on the scene.

“That’s pretty quick,” said Division Chief and Fire Marshal Margueritte Hickman. “Frequently, fires that start without people in the building, we won’t know until someone passing on the street reports it. But the university put in an automatic fire alarm system.”

It took about an hour for Ashland Fire & Rescue to locate and put out the fire because of its location inside the building walls, making it hard to see, said Hickman.

The fire broke out on the second floor and caused major damage to two offices, although it was contained before it reached the attic. The cause of the fire is suspected to be electrical in nature, although AFR is still investigating.

The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the oldest on campus, originally constructed in 1904 for Charles Chappel, a city council member. The center is home to the university’s development and alumni relations offices, as well as the SOU Foundation. Some of the building’s occupants will have to be relocated until repairs are completed.

Drew Gilliland, director of facilities management and planning for SOU, said in an interview with the Ashland Daily Tidings that the damages are suspected to be around $50,000 to $80,000.

“I am deeply grateful to the Ashland Fire Department,” said SOU President Mary Cullinan in a campus-wide email. “They responded quickly, extinguished the fire rapidly, and saved a cherished SOU and Ashland historic landmark.”

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