A Letter From President Hanlon on the Morton Hall Fire

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“We are all grateful that no one was injured in the fire,” writes Hanlon.

Morton Hall
A fire in Morton Hall on Oct. 1 displaced 67 students, none of whom were injured. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00) 

To the Dartmouth community,

As most of you know, a fire broke out late Friday night in Morton Hall. We are all grateful that no one was injured in the fire, certainly the most important outcome. This event will have a lasting impact on the residents of Morton Hall, but our students and our local responders are safe and for that I give thanks.

The residents of Morton Hall have lost their rooms for this term and some students lost all of their possessions.  Over the weekend, we provided all the residents with new rooms. Our staff and the Red Cross worked through the weekend to supply residents with emergency provisions, and we are working to help them replace lost items. But the disruption to the students is profound, and some of the things they lost are irreplaceable. I met with the residents of Morton on Saturday to express my support for them.

I know that all members of our community will show compassion to these students at this difficult time.

The fire in Morton Hall, an undergraduate residence hall, began shortly after midnight on October 1. Safety and Security and Hanover fire and police responded immediately. Hanover was aided in fighting the four-alarm fire by fire departments from 10 neighboring communities. The New Hampshire fire marshal’s investigation has determined that “the cause of the fire was from students using a small hibachi style charcoal grill on a flat section of roof outside a dorm window. The grill had been left unattended at the time of the fire.” The fire marshal’s investigation is ongoing, and Hanover police and fire also continue to investigate the incident. Morton Hall is no longer habitable and will have to be completely rehabilitated.

Our staff worked day and night throughout the weekend to assist the students displaced by the fire. I have been moved by the care and concern and remarkable energy that they have brought to the task. I want to express my thanks particularly to safety and security officers, to members of the student affairs division, to personnel from facilities, operations and management, and to the students who opened their rooms to Morton Hall residents. I also want to thank staff at Dick’s House, and at Information Technology Services. We have also received tremendous assistance throughout the weekend from many community organizations and businesses, including the American Red Cross, the Hanover Inn, and E and R Laundry.

Above all, I want to express my enormous gratitude to the men and women of the Hanover fire and police departments and the fire departments of Lyme, Lebanon, Enfield, Claremont, Hartford, Norwich, Thetford, Bradford, Windsor, and Hartland, as well as to the Lyme FAST Squad and the Upper Valley Ambulance, all of whom responded to the fire. The entire Dartmouth community owes a debt of thanks to the members of these organizations, most of whom are volunteers.

At this difficult time, I am reminded of the importance of community, how much we rely on the help and goodwill of others, and how essential it is for each of us to support our friends and neighbors. I am moved and humbled to be a part of such a remarkable community.

With gratitude,

Phil Hanlon ’77

Office of Communications