Saturday started off like any typical college weekend at the University of Rhode
Island, but it quickly turned into a night of havoc for students residing in Hillside Hall at the University of Rhode Island. Hillside Hall is the newest freshmen dormitory, and multiple fires were set off in the men’s bathrooms on several floors. No one was injured.

Either toilet paper or paper towels were burned in trashcans in the bathrooms, and
luckily, most of the fires—set on the first, third, fourth and fifth floors—burned out on
their own. However one fire, on the fifth floor, set off the fire alarm and sprinklers and
burned a wall in the bathroom. The sprinklers also caused water damage in some of the
dorm rooms.

The first large fire occurred at 8:40 p.m. on Saturday. 

Residents smelled smoke on the fifth floor and notified RAs, who pulled the fire alarm and put out the fire with water.

Then, while fire marshals and URI police were investigating the earlier incident, a second
fire was set off in the same bathroom around midnight, which triggered the sprinkler

Students were once again evacuated, and some students had to sleep elsewhere. Two rooms on the fifth and fourth floors were affected by the water damage and those students were relocated.

Disclaimer: No rooms were actually burned down.

Rachel Wernquest is a resident of the fifth floor of Hillside and told Fresh U:

  •  “I came back from my friend’s room at one in the morning… and then they put me in the lobby and [said], 'You have to stay here and talk to the police.'” 

Officials told Rachel she couldn’t go to her room and that no one was allowed on the fifth floor at that point. 

“The police questioned us [and wanted to know about] the serial arsonist. No one could leave. We couldn’t go to our rooms. And then they told us that we had to go and find somewhere else to sleep for the night… [There were about] seven fires set that day.” 

Rachel was worried that they would set another one while she was asleep. 

“They have signs all over Hillside [that say] ‘Contact this arson hotline if you have any information’ and if you lead to the arrest, you could get a $5,000 reward.”

Christina Ronzitti resides on the fourth floor of Hillside. She was in the building
during both of the fires and was forced to evacuate. When asked about her feelings toward
safety in her dorm, she told Fresh U:

“I feel like there should be more patrol [in Hillside]… now because they haven’t caught anybody as far as we know. There are numbers all over the place to call if you know anything or see anything.”

Residents are still weary about the situation and the “serial arsonist” has not been caught at this point. The reason for the fires is still also unknown. Luckily, everyone is okay.

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