By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Though no one was killed, two firemen and a civilian were injured during a four-alarm fire at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute that caused severe damage and destroyed an art studio early Friday morning.
It took 168 firemen about two hours to extinguish the flames, which started on the top floor of the six-story Main Building located at 200 Willoughby Ave., according to FDNY officials. The 125-year-old building housed studios, classrooms, and administrative offices. A roof collapsed during the fire and there was quite a bit of water damage as well.
The Main Building belonged to the Fine Arts Department with seniors and their projects assigned to the top floor, which suffered the bulk of the damage.
"Everyone who had a studio up there in the Main Building knows about the energy and identity we invested and then got back out – it was an atmosphere with a pulse; certainly one of the most romantic spaces at Pratt," former student Christopher Fahey said on Facebook.
The injured firefighters suffered minor injuries and were taken to the Brooklyn Hospital Center while a third person refused treatment at the scene, officials said.
The cause of the blaze has yet to be determined, but an FDNY spokesman confirmed that marshals are investigating a possible arson. At the scene, FDNY Chief of Operations James Esposito called the fire suspicious due to the extreme intensity of the flames.
The school canceled classes on Friday and Saturday but reopened on Monday. Affected classrooms and administrative offices were relocated to different areas on campus. Classes in the South Hall, which lost power Friday night, but suffered no fire damage, were reopened per usual.
Even though nobody was seriously injured during the fire, there are upsetting consequences for students who lost projects and expensive supplies.
“I feel terrible about all of that student work that was lost in that inferno," Kathreen Sterling, a Fashion Design student, said on Twitter. "I can't imagine losing that type of property."
The Main Building is no stranger to fires. It suffered its first blaze in 1910. There were two others in 1968 and 1974, and Higgins Hall was destroyed in 1996. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but one former student said that this fire was a long time coming.
“That fire was so sad, but it was, unfortunately, a disaster waiting to happen,” said former student Charlsie Aigotti.
“The senior studio’s paintings and drawings were on the top floor there,” Aigotti said. “Students used to put cigarette butts out on the floor and out on the roof all the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody used a space heater to dry a painting quicker or if the wiring went. It was an old building.”
On Facebook, a former student posted about her memories of the ‘96 blaze; she said she feels like the students will find a way to overcome this horrific tragedy.
“I remember when the center section of Higgins Hall burned,” Alice Elizabeth Harvey Brette recalled. “It was rebuilt even better than it had been. Students banded together to help one of the seniors who lost his work recreate it all in time for his show. I know Pratt will pull through this time too, and Main will be even better than it was.”
One student, Monica Iancu, suggested on Facebook that, “we need to reuse what's left to make some meaningful art out of the ashes.”
The school is asking that anyone who can donate supplies bring them to the Student Union between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. this week. Cash donations are also being accepted at the website: www.pratt.edu/give.