Canton Fire Department Issues Press Release on Cook Hall Fire – SUNY Canton President Joseph L. Kennedy Responds

“I’m relieved the investigation has revealed no indication of an intentional or criminal act, and I applaud all of the agencies involved in the investigation. They have worked diligently and thoroughly to get these answers to us as quickly as possible, and we can’t thank them enough.”

“We are all still anxious for the College to return to normalcy. Currently, we are still awaiting lab results to determine how quickly we will be allowed to re-open the buildings surrounding Cook Hall. We continue to follow the Office of Emergency Management, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Office of Fire Prevention and Control, the Department of Health, the Office of General Services, the State University of New York, and the many other agencies that provided experts for the situation. In the mean time, we’ve begun to tentatively schedule some classes in alternate venues with hopes of minimally interrupting the Spring 2012 Semester.”

Canton Fire Department Press Release

LOCATION: SUNY CANTON‐COOK HALL 34 Cornell Drive Canton NY 13617

Over the past four days the following agencies participated in a comprehensive investigation into the origin and cause of
the fire on campus in Cook Hall late Friday morning, including the St. Lawrence County Bureau of Fire Investigation, SUNY Canton Police Department, NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Office of Fire Prevention and Control.

  • The origin of the fire was determined to be in a Chemistry Prep/Storage room, located on the north end, second floor of
  • Cook Hall. This area was used in the preparation of chemistry laboratory student activities of various College programs.
  • Through the course of a thorough investigation, investigators were able to determine the following:
  • Preliminary reports of an explosion and the presence of individuals in the room at the time of the incident were
  • determined to be unfounded.
  • Use of smoking materials, utilities, including electricity, heating, air conditioning, and electric appliances in the
  • room of origin were eliminated as sources of ignition.
  • The fire spread rapidly from the incipient stage to free burning stage which is consistent with a fire which
  • originates from a chemical reaction.
  • Chemicals and substances stored in this area are known to increase fire intensity.
  • At this time the investigation has revealed no indication, that the fire was the result of an intentional or criminal act.

Due to the scope and magnitude of the incident and the presence of hazardous materials on the scene the following agencies provided
assistance and support:

  • 10 Fire Departments from St. Lawrence County assisted Village of Canton Fire Department
  • St. Lawrence County Hazardous Materials
  • Village of Canton Police Department
  • Village of Potsdam Police Department
  • David E. Sullivan Police Academy
  • NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services ‐ Office of Emergency Management
  • NYS Department of Health
  • NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
  • NYS Police Aviation Unit
  • NYS Department of Labor
  • St. Lawrence County Office of Emergency Management

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17 Responses to “Canton Fire Department Issues Press Release on Cook Hall Fire – SUNY Canton President Joseph L. Kennedy Responds”

  1. Linda Garn Says:

    When will families know the extent of damage to dorm rooms in Heritage? I worry about items in my daughter’s dorm room that may have been exposed to soot/smoke/toxins. I needed to purchase items due to the evacuation and wonder if SUNY Canton is considering reimbursement. (ie: glasses and contacts, medication etc which totaled over $400)
    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you
    Linda Garn

  2. Administrator Says:

    Unfortunately we are unable to fully assess the extent of damage to campus and student property at this time. Please continue to check the website for the latest updates.

  3. Tracy VanBrocklin Says:

    Thank you for all the hard work from all agencies involved. This is definately a tragedy for the school and thank God no one was hurt.

  4. peggy kurtz Says:

    dorm rooms that were damaged with smoke and chemicals,personal belonging ,computers,food,ect. will they need to be replaced ,laundry bedding, washing walls ,floor ect ,who will clean their rooms and clothing

  5. Laurie Welker Says:

    As we prepare to send our children back to school, it is becoming imperative we know soon if their personal items will be available to them. I do understand you are awaiting test results. But as my daughter is one that was unable to enter Heritage to retrieve Medication, Eyeglasses, Contacts, Laptop, clothing, etc., she is ill-equipt to return. Most of her clothing, boots, etc., were in her room. Will she have access to her textbooks, bedding? Do I send her back to school with a sleeping bag in case she can’t sleep in her room and will be re-assigned to another? We do appreciate that this is out of your control. But, we need some suggestions and assurances.
    Thank you.

  6. Colleen Says:

    My son has asthma- what issues might he face regarding the smoke, etc? My husband has cancer – are there special issues of which we need to be aware regarding our son’s room and belongings?

  7. Carol Hawley Says:

    Thank you for all you are doing to get everything back to normal. We would certainly like to understand the process that is being undertaken with regards to the toxicity concerns. Also wondering if there is any consideration being given to opening the affected dorms early (Saturday) to give some of the kids a change to get back in, cleaned out and caught up.

  8. Linda Lane Says:

    When will the students at Heritage know what type of damage or losses they may have due to the fire. Will Canton insurance be covering the damages? Pretty much all of my daughters belongings ie clothes, boots rtv reside on campus. It will be a big expense for us to replace everything plus computer, books, etc. I am concern since her room was on the side of the fire.
    I think it would only be fair if you could inform us prior to the weekend


  9. Linda Garn Says:

    Checking back in to request further information regarding our children returning to campus. While I understand you are doing whatever possible to clean up and investigate this incident, as a parent I am looking for information regarding the safety of my daughters dorm room, availability of her belongings on Sunday when we return etc.
    Is it possible my daughter will not be permitted back into her room on Sunday? If items need decontamination will the college pay for this to take place. I worry about toxicity, electronics that cannot be cleaned such as her laptop and stethoscope. Also wonder about mattresses, have toxins permeated the bedding and so on. Just need some answers before the weekend so we know how to prepare. Perhaps posting replies on this page would be more beneficial than individual responses sent to our email, many of us have the same questions and the information would be received by all. Again thank you for everything you are doing.

  10. Administrator Says:

    Cook Hall was the only building to sustain actual fire damage. The residence halls and other academic buildings were evacuated as a precaution due to potential smoke damage and health safety concerns. As a reminder, we have exercised an abundance of caution. We remain optimistic that the residence halls and its contents were not greatly affected and therefore confident that the property of students was not damaged.

  11. Maria Rodriguez Says:

    My daughter is housed in Heritage, you have posted that classes will begin on Monday, Feb. 20, if you do not get the lab reports. Where would those students in Heritage be accommodated for housing and how can they go to class when all their materials are in their rooms. They were asked to evacuate as is and do not have school or personal property. We live in the NYC area and are very concerned about your arrangement, we do not want professors penalizing their work or performance for lack of resources, when the occurrence was not in their control. Eagerly await a response.

  12. Joy Nash Says:

    How about an update, it has been several days, My daughter is up there for athletics and we would like to know when she will be able to get back in her room.. Thanks for all of your caution to protect our kids!

  13. C Taylor Says:

    Are the lab results in? Is it same for our children to return to the SUNY Canton campus?

  14. C Taylor Says:

    Are the lab results in? Is it safe for our children to return to the SUNY Canton campus?

  15. Administrator Says:

    Please take a look at our latest update with re-opening schedule:

  16. Derek Says:

    In the Fire Department Press release, it never mentioned what exactly started the fire. Isn’t anyone besides me wondering how this happened? Could it happen again? Things generally don’t just start on fire? There must have been human error somewhere. Did a student store something in an improper place, or maybe a teacher had items together can when combined, could cause a fire? Why did this fire start at that exact moment? To me, the details seem vague. How can we be sure that this will not happen again? Why hadn’t it happened prior to that time? There had to be an error somewhere, whether accidental or not, something started this fire. But what? Or whom?

  17. Administrator Says:

    The appropriate NYS fire, safety, and emergency agencies continue to investigate the origin of the fire and will continue to keep us informed…and safe.