A small fire flared up near the entrance of the Tinbergen Building adjacent to the Erasmus Pavilion on Thursday morning around 11:30. Two fire engines and a police car responded to the call and were able to contain the fire.

A police officer confirmed that a cigarette butt was the culprit. A university employee observed smoke coming from under the tiles and immediately called emergency services at 112. “Fortunately we were able to contain the fire. The bitumen under the tiles hadn’t caught fire yet so the flames hadn’t spread very far,” said one of the firemen who responded to the call.

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Image credit: Marko de Haan

Bitumen is used as a roofing material and catches fire quickly. It has been used on campus under the tiles of the terrace in front of the C Building. Last year the roofing material in front of the C Building did catch fire. This fire, also caused by a cigarette butt, was more serious and two hundred people had to be evacuated from the building.

Stricter rules

“Since that fire we instituted stricter rules regarding smoking,” said Jelle Jager (56), head of security services, who had rushed to the scene with two security officers and two In-House Emergency Service employees. “People are only allowed to smoke at designated smoking areas. We’ve made these smoking zones fire safe by creating sealed- off spaces under the tiles. A fire can spread quickly in areas where the spaces aren’t sealed off.”

Since the stricter rules were introduced smoking is no longer permitted at the scene where the fire occurred. Nevertheless, smokers frequently smoke in this area. “There’s a roof here that keeps the rain out and if it’s windy there’s a column that provides shelter, making it ideal for smokers,” said one of the In-House Emergency Service employees. The hundreds of cigarette butts that appear when the fire service removes the tiles where the fire started offer silent testimony to this fact.

Jager is unhappy that he wasn’t informed about the fire immediately. Then he would have been on the scene more quickly. “Everyone should know the internal EUR emergency number: 81100. That’s the number you also need to call in an emergency so that we can also lend assistance.”