Early on the morning of May 3, 1973, an on-duty member of the custodial staff passed by the James E Booth Hall only to be surprised to see fire pluming from the skylights. The building had caught fire deep into the night between midnight and 3 a.m. Thousands of dollars in student work and equipment and RIT property fueled the raging flames. Back in those days smoke detectors were not as widely used, and due to this fact the fire managed to grow and gain ground before being detected. Although there were many hypotheses on where the fire originated, there was too much conflicting evidence for investigators to be sure of the exact start and cause of the tragedy. Luckily, the fire happened early and no students, faculty or staff were harmed. In all, an estimated 12,000 sq ft of property was damaged, costing around $24,000 in repairs, which would equal about $150,000 today. The building was not completely destroyed, as fire crews were able to extinguish the fire quickly. This left half of the building unharmed and still fit for classes to continue, which they did as the building was repaired over the following years.
Since that time, RIT as well as the rest of the nation has really put a focus on safety. In conjunction with NYS regulation, RIT is now home to over 2,000 smoke detectors and conducts monthly inspections of fire extinguishers and on-campus housing to assure that every room is up to both New York State’s and RIT’s own codes. Recently RIT demonstrated their focus on safety with RIT Safety Day, which gave students plenty of information on what to do in case of a fire and included a live demonstration of an apartment burning to better show students how such a little flame can turn into a huge problem. RIT’s commitment to fire safety has paid off and the campus is a safe place for all of us.