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At 11:26 a.m.

Research Assistant Turns in Fire Alarm

Mrs. Patricia Morrison, 22-year-old research assistant and spring University graduate, turned in the alarm at 11:26 a.m.

She worked in 2008, the main research room on a project under the direction of Dr. Hershel T. Manuel, professor emeritus of educational psychology. The fire started in Room 2007 (also being used in the project) in which a large table was covered with papers.

The project, financed by the US Office of Education in cooperation with University, I s concerned with developing inter-American test materials.

Thousands of parallel English and Spanish tests from kindergarten through the high school level were stored in the tow room.

“We were about through administering them, “ Dr. Manuel said. “I hope it's not a total loss. Some of the material was stored in my office (Room 2004).” It was found to be intact.

The only persons on the twentieth floor at the time of the alarm were Mrs. Morrison and Ken Jensen, student office worker. Mrs. James Buchanan, another student research assistant, had left the floor at 11:15 a.m. because of smoke and odors from welding on air-conditioning equipment being installed on the floor above.

“We smelled the welding odor and noticed sparks about 11,” Mrs. Morrison said, “ I at first thought it was nothing out of the ordinary. Then Ken and I noticed smoke coming from under and around the door of Room 2007. We looked thorough the mail slot, and the room was filled with thick smoke.

“Very soon after that one of the air-conditioning men came down from one of the floors above, and he broke the window of the door to the room. Ken had gotten a fire extinguisher, but the smoke and heat were too great, and they couldn't put out the fire.”

Mrs. Morrison at first called the operator as she tried to contact the Austin Fire Department. Before the operator answered, a library aide who had come to open the locked door of Room 2007 looked up the number in the telephone directory, and Mrs. Morrison dialed it and turned in the alarm.

“The firemen who answered said 11:26 as he hung up the phone,” Mrs. Morrison said. “Within three minutes after I turned in the alarm, smoke was all over the floor.”

She and Jensen ran down to the sixteenth floor to try to catch the elevator because it was slow in coming. Mrs. Frances Hellums Hudspeth, executive assistant of the Humanities Research Center, got on the elevator on the sixteenth floor, where her office is.

“Where is the fire?” Mrs. Hudspeth asked. She was told the twentieth floor, and she said, “My books are up there,” and immediately punched the twentieth-floor button.

When the elevator arrived there and the doors opened, smoke gushed into the car. An occupant pushed the first-floor button, the car shot down, and the occupants got out safely.

Summer Texan.. August 10, 1965.
Article by: Richard Cole

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3 May 1999
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