Whitehall table catches fire: 3 Alpha Omicron Pi sisters help put flames out with paint water

By Morgan Eads

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When three Alpha Omicron Pi sisters went to White Hall Classroom Building on Sunday to participate in Paint the Town Blue, they did not expect they’d put out a fire.

But after a table holding heated catering equipment for Qdoba Mexican Grill collapsed during the Panhellenic Women’s Leadership Conference, the three women ended up using paint brush water to help extinguish a small fire.

“The fire just started climbing up the table cloth at an incredible speed,” said journalism senior Taylor Carden. “I’d never actually seen a real fire that wasn’t just a bonfire.”

Carden along with pre-communication disorders sophomore Kealy Griffin and communication disorders junior Taylor McDonald said they saw the table collapse and the fire spread through the window they were painting.

A group of women were listening to Miss Kentucky Jenna Day speak when the folding table holding catering from Qdoba fell, said Susan West, UK director of sorority and fraternity affairs.

As a long line of women filed out of the classroom building, Carden, Griffin and McDonald ran in carrying the water bottles they were using to clean out their paintbrushes.

“We did what we could to take care of it. We didn’t really think, we just did it,” Carden said. “I don’t know what made us do that.”

The three poured put out much of the fire, Carden said.

An employee from Qdoba pulled the table cloth with the remaining flames outside and then used a fire extinguisher to ensure all flames were out, Carden said.

Lt. Richard Carlin of the Lexington Fire Department said the oil in the food warmers caught fire when a table leg gave out. There was no real damage.

Firefighters used large fans to air out the thick smoke in the hallway, he said.

While the firefighters waited for the smoke to clear out, firefighter Jeremy Bruner got up in a chair and helped Carden, McDonald and Griffin paint their carrousel.

The firefighters gave the three women plastic firefighter’s helmets and said they could be honorary firefighters for the day.

“We just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” Carden said.