Approximately 60 students and 40 staff members were evacuated from Abbott House in Irvington this morning after a fire broke out in a second-story laundry room, fire department officials said.
"The most important thing is that all the students are safe and accounted for," Robert Costello, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Abbott House, said.
The second floor of Abbott House's main building is comprised predominantly of dormitory rooms, and because school will not start until tomorrow, Costello said the majority of the students were in the building when the alarms sounded just after 10:30 a.m.
Abbott House is a social service agency and residential foster care facility currently housing approximately 60 boys aged 7 to 17. Most Abbott House residents attend the Abbott School, a Special Act School District located on the campus.
"We run fire drills every months, alternating the times of day in which they occur," Costello said. "Luckily when there was a true fire, everyone followed directions and it went smoothly. We took role outside and thank God everyone was there."
Irvington's volunteer fire department was on the scene within minutes and, according to Second Assistant Chief Christopher DePaoli, "The flames were extinguished within five minutes."
Firefighters were able to gain entry to the building through first-floor doors, sweeping the building to confirm that everyone had been evacuated. The flames were contained to the second-floor laundry room, though officials are still unsure of the extent of the damage.
"The fire started in a gas-powered clothes dryer," DePaoli said. "We believe it was caused by lint igniting in the lint box."
DePaoli said he was unsure whether a gas or electric-powered dryer was more likely to pose a fire hazard but noted that the best way to avoid fires is to clean out the lint box after each load.
A cause and origin team will further investigate the matter.
Besides leading fire drills and planning exit strategies, Abbott House also has fire doors that close automatically to contain flames once a fire has been detected.
"The fire itself was not much of an event from our perspective," DePaoli said, meaning that the flames were not as formidable many he and his team faced in training.
But for Costello, any incident involving children's safety is of utmost concern. "The fire department did a good job," he said. "For that we're very grateful."