An extra-alarm fire over the weekend at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., destroyed most of a building that housed the school's business office and information technology staff, but officials say the fall semester will begin as scheduled later this month.
The school says orientation for new students begins Aug. 27 and classes start on Aug. 31. It reports that there has been no damage or disruption to electronic records or services for students, faculty, and staff, and all Business Office and IT services will continue uninterrupted.
The Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office says the Saturday night blaze caused about $3.5 million damage to the building, which the college was renting and was unoccupied at the time of the fire.
“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,” says Mark Hampton, the college’s vice president for finance and administration.
The primary short-term challenge ofr the college 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.
WMDT-TV reports that the fire started within a plastic smoker's receptacle outside the building. Investigators say video surveillance of the incident showed the flames spreading from the receptacle to nearby mulch and vegetation before making its way to the structure.