Accidental Fire Damages CU Chabad Center After 1st Shabbat

The hall full of smoke and steam from the security cameras.
The hall full of smoke and steam.

There’s a really good reason that CU doesn’t allow lit candles in the residence halls, as Rabbi Wilhelm of the Rohr Chabad Center at CU and the residents of the Schaeffer Family Center were reminded the hard way late last Friday night.  After a very successful first Shabbat dinner of the fall semester with over 100 students in attendance in the social hall, a lone candle left burning on a table caught the table on fire.

The good news: the center’s state-of-the-art fire suppression and alarm system did its job perfectly, detecting the blaze quickly and limiting the fire damage to the table in question.  All the tenants of the upper flows of the center were safely evacuated, and the fire was out before firefighters arrived minutes later.

The aftermath in the social hall.
The aftermath in the social hall. The burned table is in the lower right. 

The bad news: the sprinkler system caused significant water damage in the social hall and the sanctuary/ classrooms/ offices below it.

From Rabbi Wilhelm:

Last night we celebrated the first Shabbat of the new school year with over 100 Jewish students. AePi alumni co-sponsored Shabbat dinner, and the local brothers set the tables and prepared the desserts. There was a fiery energy in the room as students ate, sang, and shared words of inspiration, inspiring each other to make this year one filled with Jewish involvement.

After all guests left Chabad House for the night, the fiery energy unfortunately turned into reality. A table, on which one small, unnoticed, burning Shabbat candle was left, somehow caught fire. The Chabad House is outfitted with a state-of-the-art fire system, and the fire triggered the sprinkler system and an alarm. The sprinkler system put the fire out even before the fire fighters arrived, and all tenants of the upper floors of Chabad House were safely evacuated. The fire damage was limited to one area of the social hall. Unfortunately, the water damage from the sprinkler system is quite extensive, affecting the social hall and the sanctuary/classroom and offices below.

Assessment of the damage and restoration work has begun. The contractor who completed Chabad House just 6 months ago is promising to work as hard and as fast as possible, so that Chabad House be operable in time for High Holidays.

What we don’t know:

The extent of the work and time involved in doing the complete renovation.

Why this had to happen.

What we do know:

There is a lot of work ahead of us.

Discussing the “what if’s” and “why” is frustrating and futile.

The care and concern of the Jewish Buff family has warmed our hearts. We love you guys.

We will not let this obstacle get in the way of the energetic start to this year. Chabad at CU will continue with its full roster of programs, using creativity, ingenuity and sheer motivation.

Your support for our work, both emotional and financial, means a lot to us at this time.

Rabbi Yisroel & Leah Wilhelm

Those wishing to make a donation to help with the repairs can do so here, and specify the Building Fund.


About Staff

They call me "NewsHound IV," because I'm a clever Finnegan, sniffing out stories all over the Boulder area. I love Jewish holidays because the food is GREAT, especially the brisket. Well all the food. I was a rescue pup and glad to be on the scent!

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One comment

  1. Time to consider tasteful, rechargeable LED shabbat candles?
    They can't cause fires, do not emit any CO2, and can be recharged using renewable energy sources.

    These are OK, but not in the familiar shape for Shabbos: