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Fire forces evacuations at St. Michael's College - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Fire forces evacuations at St. Michael's College

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COLCHESTER, Vt. -

"We had a report that fire was showing when the units arrived," Colchester Center Assistant Fire Chief Sandy Ladd said.

Alarms started going off at the dorm on St. Mike's campus around 3:30 a.m. Monday. Three students were inside. The state fire investigator says new smoke detectors using photoelectric technology saved their lives.

"The smoke detector went off and they were able to escape," said Peter Soons, the public safety director at St. Michael's College.

Two students ran out of the burning townhouse apartment, another jumped to safety from a second-floor window.

"All of the students were able to leave the property," Ladd said.

The school's public safety officers then evacuated neighboring units. More than 20 students were forced to leave as firefighters battled the blaze.

"The fire progressively burned off the staircase to the second floor. So crews are having a little access trouble getting into the second floor," Ladd said.

About 50 firefighters from five departments responded. Once inside, they smashed windows to clear smoke and heat. It took crews about an hour to get the blaze under control.

It's been ruled an accident that started in an electric heating unit. Flammable materials stacked on top fueled the fire.

"Number five is gutted. Number six and number four have significant damage," Soons said.

All of the students are being relocated, many to area hotels. The school and the Red Cross are helping them replace items lost in the fire, like books and clothing.

"We are thankful they are safe and we will do what we can to support them," Soons said.

It's not clear how long those students will be in temporary housing. And the school doesn't have a price tag on the amount of damage yet.

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