Updates Regarding Brush Fire in Sanctuary

The Cochran Bird Sanctuary has been taped off since April 4.

A brush fire broke out in Pine Knoll’s Cochran Bird Sanctuary causing some damage to the area, though not within close enough proximity to affect any campus buildings. The fire, reported last Monday on April 4 was effectively taken care of and extinguished within a day. The Andover fire department has yet to identify the cause of the fire.

The same night of the fire, Nathan Hale, a dorm in Pine Knoll, reported having brown water that was thought to be caused by the efforts to stop the fire. Deputy Kyle Murphy from the Andover Fire Rescue, who was on duty at the time, described the situation in greater detail, providing the dispatches and time elapsed.

“We got a phone call for a possible brush fire in the bird sanctuary. We responded with an engine and our brush truck. The arriving unit found a brush fire approximately one to two acres in size, so they went and they started to extinguish it. They felt that they needed more help, so they called for another truck and another brush truck. So we had roughly, say about six or so guys up there putting the fire out. It was probably about an hour [to] hour and a half before they were sure everything was extinguished,” said Murphy.

Resident students in Hale were informed at around dinner time of the situation and felt alarmed. Angie Ceballos Cardona ’25 recounted when she first found out about the situation.

“I was walking back to my dorm and I saw fire trucks outside. I talked to my house counselor [and] she assured me that everything was fine. Then I went back into my dorm and a few moments later, I got an email saying not to use the water because it was brown. I even went to the bathroom myself to see how bad it was and it [really] was very brown,” said Ceballos Cardona.

According to Murphy, it is common for neighboring residents to experience brown water if a fire hydrant in close proximity is used. The easiest solution to this problem is running the water until no brown water is present, a technique that also eliminated the contaminated water from Hale.

Many students felt displeased with how the situation was being handled. Some were unsatisfied with the communication regarding the water, and others felt that the issues were not prioritized enough. Mayumi Kawano ’25, another student living in Hale, and Ceballos Cardona explained the cause of some students’ frustrations.

“I know a lot of people were angry because we got the email pretty late, I think it was around like 6 or 7 p.m.. And that’s around the time where you are going back to the dorm to freshen up or you’re probably at the library, and then you’re expecting to come back to the dorm to take a shower and then go to bed,” said Kawano.

Ceballos Cardona added, “A lot of people were a little impatient. Water is such a necessity and without it, you see how much it impacts your life, like brushing your teeth, washing your [hair and] face in the shower. So the dorm was a little upset. I think [it was] the fact that we had a dorm with 42 kids, and we weren’t able to use the water for about two days.”

To cope with the lack of clean water in the dorm, students were forced to go to athletic facilities such as the Snyder Center or Borden Memorial Gym to take care of their hygiene while still adhering to after hour policies and class schedules.

“Instead of getting to come back to the dorm, shower and go to sleep, they had to walk all the way to Snyder and be back before final sign in, which interrupted their study hours in order to even take a shower and brush their teeth,” said Ceballos Cardona.

Kawano added, “That same day, I had to walk back all the way to Hale and then back to Snyder, and then back to Hale, just to shower and get ready for bed. And the next morning, I had to wake up pretty early to do the same to get ready for classes.”

Murphy emphasized that all fires are dangerous, regardless of the fact that the Sanctuary fire did not reach any buildings. To prevent situations like this from happening in the future, Murphy urges the community to take more precautions regarding fire hazards.

“It comes down to people being cautious during the dry weather [and] to extinguish smoking materials properly; human error may have been the cause [of] the [fire]. So everyone has to be vigilant, especially during the drier conditions, and especially when it’s windy,” said Murphy.