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College Systems Up and Running Despite Fire
CHESTERTOWN, MD—Washington College officials are assessing damage and making plans for smooth continuity of the affected services after a fire destroyed most of a rented building at 515 Washington Avenue that housed the Business Office and Information Technology staff.
The four-alarm fire was reported shortly before 8:00 p.m. Saturday evening, August 15, and drew local firefighters from Chestertown’s Volunteer Fire Company and nearby units from Maryland and Delaware. There were no serious injuries reported, although four firefighters were treated for minor injuries.
Mark Hampton, the College’s Vice President for Finance and Administration, said he expected no significant disruption of primary services such as student technology, Internet access, payroll, and day-to-day business transactions. “The good news is that, thanks to good planning and back-up systems, we are in very good shape despite the devastating nature of the blaze.”
Washington College will be starting classes for the new academic year as scheduled, with new student orientation beginning August 27 and classes starting on August 31. All Business Office and IT services will continue uninterrupted.
While the full extent of equipment and property damage is not yet known, there is no damage or disruption to electronic records or services for students, faculty, and staff.
The primary short-term challenge is finding new office and workspaces for the 24 employees who worked in the building. Officials expected to be able to find on-campus spaces for the fall semester, and to seek new rental space for the longer term.
The cause of the fire was still unknown Sunday morning, although investigators from the state Fire Marshall’s office were on the scene.
Washington College president Sheila Bair stressed that the campus community was relieved that there were no serious injuries and no loss of essential functions. “We are extremely grateful to the many first responders from both Maryland and Delaware for their personal courage in combatting the blaze, and we wish a speedy recovery to the four firefighters who suffered minor injuries at the scene,” she said. “I also want to thank the many Washington College staff members who are stepping up to make sure services for students and staff alike will continue uninterrupted. We absolutely will be ready for our new and returning students when they start arriving next week.”