Municipality learned about university fire 30 minutes late: Mayor

Municipality learned about university fire 30 minutes late: Mayor

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Municipality learned about university fire 30 minutes late: Mayor

DHA photo

Authorities received word of a large fire at a historical building on Galatasaray University’s campus almost 30 minutes late, Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş said today, absolving his municipality of any shortcomings in the destructive blaze.

“Somebody might have thought that the fire was put out,” Topbaş said, adding that firefighters in 36 vehicles reached the scene of the fire six minutes after receiving notification.

Istanbul firefighters have the same capabilities as their New York counterparts, and the city has plans to purchase a night helicopter for firefighters, he said.

“We have already gone through plans for 57 buildings in Beşiktaş in case fires break out,” Topbaş told reporters.

Malfunctioning electrical cables are often the cause of fires, Topbaş said, warning citizens against using electrical outlets during the night.

“We need to be sensitive in such a way,” Topbaş said. “We need silicon cables; we need to be cautious about these matters.”

Fire in Istanbul at university campus by the Bosphorus

A fire that broke out at Galatasaray University on Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m caused heavy damage to one of the school's buildings but resulted in no casualties, according to initial reports.

The fire reportedly started on the third floor of the main building where faculty offices are located. 

Strong winds caused the fire to spread to the other three floors and the top of the building, resulting in the collapse of the roof, according to reports. All the people inside the building were reportedly evacuated.

Firefighters were dispatched to the scene and brought the blaze under control at approximately 11 p.m. Firefighters also worked to extinguish the fire from boats in the Bosphorus. 

Likely cause: Electrical outlet

Reports cited electrical outlets as the probable cause of the fire.

“The fire started on the third floor where the offices of professors are located. It is said that it started in an office likely due to a problem with an electrical outlet. People have been evacuated by security. After the firefighters came, the blaze spread because of strong winds. The building is wooden and there are a lot of books. There was a group of students in the building but they have been evacuated as well. There was no panic and no casualties, but we lost our historical building,” Professor Özlem Yüce, who was in the building when the fire broke out, told private broadcaster CNNTürk.   

After hearing the news, a number of students came to the university building to witness the damage.

“Smoke appeared from a professor’s office around 7:00 p.m. due to an electrical short circuit. The fire alarm went off. Security quickly extinguish the fire, more precisely there was not even a flame to extinguish at all. They sprayed fumes where they saw the smoke coming. Then the firefighters arrived and while they were writing a report stating that there had not been [a full-blown] fire, smoke came from the roof and a blaze erupted.  Our guess is that the fire had spread by means of electric cables, in other words in a part of the building that we cannot see,” said the university’s rector, Ethem Tolga.

Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu said the city did not own helicopters for aerial firefighting that could be operated during the night.  
Galatasaray University is located in a historical building next to the Bosphorus, in the Beşiktaş district. The fire spread quickly because the building, originally called Feriye Palace, which was built in 1871, is made of wood.

Prominent historian İlber Ortaylı explained that there were nearly 6,000 unique, old books he had donated to the university in a library named in his honor located on the second floor of the building.

The university was founded by an international treaty with France in 1992. It is the only Turkish university where the primary language for education is French. It has also been used for important political events, including a speech that former U.S. President George W. Bush made during a NATO summit in 2004 that was broadcast by major news outlets.