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Friday, April 19, 2024 — Houston, TX

Lovett College evacuates due to gas scare

By Josh Rutenberg     2/22/12 6:00pm

Gasoline vapors spread through the Lovett College ventilation system on Friday night, forcing students to temporarily evacuate the building.

At 12:50 a.m., Lovett College Master Marie-Nathalie Contou-Carrere received a phone call from a student who noticed a strong smell of gasoline coming from inside the building. At the same time, a Lovett student involved in the situation approached Contou-Carrere at the master's house and explained what had happened.

According to an email sent to the Lovett listserv by the two students involved, they had been helping a friend whose car had run out of gas. After borrowing a portable gas can, the two disposed of the remaining gasoline in a grate outside of Lovett. The students said they poured out the gasoline so the owner of the can they borrowed would not have to keep the gasoline indoors. In the email, the two said they disposed of the gasoline in a grate outside of the college, which they believed led to a drain. Instead, the grate led to the Lovett ventilation system, evaporating into the college's rooms. The two apologized to the college in their email.

Lovett junior Julia Bleck reported the incident to RUPD at around 1 a.m. after she and her roommates smelled the gasoline.

"I was in my room, and it smelled super strongly of gasoline," Bleck said. "[My roommates and I] decided we needed to get out of there."

Lovett freshman Andrea Mansur had been asleep but noticed the gasoline when she woke up during the night.

"I was in my room, and [the gasoline] didn't set off any alarms, so there was no way of knowing," Mansur said. "When I went to the bathroom after I woke up, I noticed my room smelled really bad, like burning rubber. I checked my phone, and one of my best friends had been texting me to go downstairs."

The Houston Fire Department dispatched a hazmat team to assess the situation for health and safety concerns. Contou-Carrere said HFD evacuated the building and assessed the situation quickly. HFD determined from the size of the gas can and information from the two students that the gasoline had evaporated and did not pose any health or fire hazards. HFD required students to remain outside the building while the fumes cleared.

"I was concerned about fire hazards, but the concentration was small," Contou-Carrere said of the gasoline.

With the aid of dispersants and fans, HFD managed to clear the remaining gas. After two and a half hours, HFD cleared the building for student re-entry.

Director of Environmental Health and Safety Kathryn Cavender said that students wishing to dispose of gasoline or other hazardous materials, such as batteries, paint or lighter fluid, should contact her at ext. 4444. Cavender said arrangements could be made to safely dispose of the materials at no charge to the student.

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