Student hospitalised after Birmingham Hillel Chanucah blaze

By Charlotte Oliver, December 5, 2013
The scene after the fire at Birmingham Hillel

The scene after the fire at Birmingham Hillel

A chanucah candle was the cause of a fire that left one person in hospital and caused thousands of pounds worth of damage at the Hillel House in Birmingham last week.

The blaze broke out on the second night of Chanucah in the library of the student residence where several menorahs had been lit to mark the festival.

Fire-fighters were called to tackle the flames. Around 38 residents were evacuated, with one student taken to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and later discharged.

The fire, which raged for about an hour, destroyed the ground-floor library, which doubles as a makeshift synagogue.

Residents were allowed back into the building once the flames were put out. The following evening’s regular Friday night dinner had to be cancelled.

Hillel committee chair Ruth Jacobs said: “The fire was all within that one room. Thank goodness for the fire door. It could have been much more serious.”

She added: “The library is gutted. The room will have to be completely renovated. We’ll hopefully have it ready for action when the students come back in January.”

Measures are now being taken to ensure the safety of all residents at Hillel. Ms Jacobs said: “The way we’re lighting candles is different now as a result — we’re using more appropriate surfaces to stand the menorahs on.”

Birmingham’s Hillel House is the largest kosher accommodation for Jewish students in the country, with more than 40 full-time residents. It also hosts weekly Shabbat dinners for up to 300 students every week.

According to a spokesperson for West Midlands Fire Service, three fire engines answered an emergency 999 call at 9.30pm. The fire was extinguished by 9.50pm.

The spokesperson said: “The crew used breathing apparatus and one hose reel to deal with the fire, and ventilated the building to clear it of smoke.

“A full search of the building and a roll call was carried out, and residents were allowed to re-enter and stay overnight.”

Following the fire, the local Bournbrook Fire Station posted before-and-after photos of the library on Twitter, along with the message: “Happy Chanucah! Please use candles safely”.

According to fire brigades across the country, no other Chanucah-related incidents have been reported.

Last updated: 11:56am, December 5 2013