Furnace Fire at Lotus House Leads to Early Morning Adventures


Lotus House is located at 356 Washington Street

It’s 4:15 AM on Sunday morning, that period of time when it’s half super late on Saturday and half super early on Sunday, and the piercing sounds of Lotus House’s fire alarm startle me awake. At first I think this sound is my roommate’s alarm clock, which annoys me, but when the way-too-loud screeching persists for about a minute, I figure I should probably leave the room. I’m still too drowsy to realize that I’m forgetting a jacket, shoes, and my phone – a rookie mistake.

My hallmates and I head down the stairs, and contrary to our quick assumption that somebody was either cooking or smoking, we see a lot of smoke accumulating around the first floor that smells like either some crazy chemical or like somebody’s burning their hair. Anything is possible in Lotus House. We wait outside the house until the fire department comes, at which point we’re all like, Yay they can turn off the alarm and let us back in to sleep! But then after a couple minutes PSafe is basically like, Sike! This is gonna take a while.

It’s freezing outside, so they put us in the workshop-garage-annex-type building next to the house, and we wait for about an hour before conclusively being told that the furnace in the basement caught fire and that it ignited some of the house’s super old insulation, hence that chemically smell. Oh and by the way – it’s leaking carbon monoxide. Gotta love it. “It,” of course, being the act of getting poisoned while you sleep in the residential area you pay thousands of dollars per semester to sleep in. But I digress.

The 17 of us are then also told that we won’t be allowed back in the house for the rest of the day, or maybe not until Tuesday, or maybe not until after Thanksgiving break. Somebody mentions that the fire could have something to do with the people who came to fix our heat the day before. In groups, we’re allowed back into the house to grab some overnight supplies, and naturally I return with a suitcase that makes it look like I’ve packed up my entire life, maybe because I have.

So, Reslife says, we can either call up some friends to stay with and make things easy, or wait for them to give us room assignments. We’re strongly encouraged to do the former, and many of us do, because it’s easier, and maybe because the latter implies we don’t have any friends. But because our friends won’t answer at 5:30 in the morning, after another hour of waiting, ResLife finally assigns me and three of my hallmates each singles in Hewitt. Now, this does have its pluses: 1. Hewitt is notably not the Northwestern-most point of campus. 2. Singles! When three of the four of us lived in doubles in Lotus House! At this point I am only mostly salty about the incident, a marked difference from the severely salty state I occupied only a few minutes before.

PSafe drives and drops us off at Hewitt around 7:00 AM, and we walk up to the golden gates of Hewitt 9, ID in hand, ready to begin our new identities as Hewitt girls. But as PSafe drives away, there is a fatal flaw in our plan to embark on our new, fire-free lives: none of us have WesID access to Hewitt. But why would our WesIDs have actually worked to scan us in? That would’ve been too easy. Assuming we’d actually be given timely accommodations–especially following the spread of toxic fumes in a house full of young undergraduates–was my second rookie mistake of the morning. I know better now.

You see, a Wesleyan education sculpts its students into problem solvers, the kind of students who advocate for themselves, who use their WestCo guest access to sleep on their friend’s rug after the key Reslife gives them doesn’t work after being kept up for hours in the middle of the night after being exposed to literal deadly gases when their campus home catches fire. And that, my friends, is why.

Sunrise Sunday morning on Foss

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