This is a developing story. This story was last updated at 3:19 p.m. on July 16, 2019.
This morning, residents of the John Paul II Newman Center were evacuated from their residence hall due to a small fire in the building’s common area.
“Crews arrived to some light smoke in the hallway at 7:02 a.m.,” Omaha fire department Battalion Chief Scott Fitzpatrick said. “There was a bookbag smoldering in front of the fireplace. They brought a water fire extinguisher and used a pressure ventilation fan to get the smoke out of the hallway and room. It was just a small, accidental fire. Crews were only on the scene for about 20 minutes.”
The fire was reportedly started when a resident left a shirt out to dry in front of the fireplace in the Holy Family Room. Students were evacuated and said they saw no visible flames.
Residents were evacuated into the building’s parking lot and stood in the rain while officials handled the incident.
Resident Ulises Orozco said he woke up to the smell of eggs and the fire alarm going off.
“I went out to the hallway to see if it was real or just a drill,” Orozco said. “I saw that the fire safety doors were actually closed so I knew it was for real. Pretty much everyone had made it down by this time and we were all talking. It ended up being a nice little bonding time with everyone. The fire was put out and everything was okay.”
Orozco said students were outside for about 20-30 minutes before receiving the all-clear to return to their residences.
“There is minimal damage to the fireplace and residual smoke and soot damage to the surrounding area,” Newman Center resident manager Lauren Hankes said. “We are thankful to Omaha Fire Station #53 for responding quickly and thoroughly. All are well and the Holy Family Room should be returned to its proper order in no time.”