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UNCA Bulldog rescues cat during campus gas leak

Familiar campus construction strikes a gas line, evacuating students
Addison Wright
Hoosier’s cat in a Humanities class after being rescued during the gas leak.

Ongoing campus construction erupted a gas leak that evacuated several UNC Asheville academic buildings and dorm halls at around 11 a.m. this Wednesday. 

“One of the contractors working on the road project hit the gas line with a trackhoe,” said Keith Krumpe, Senior Administrator for Space Planning. 

As classes of students fled the Rhodes-Robinson and Zeis buildings, a professor assured students it was a drill, and one senior physics major commented that in all her years she has never experienced a fire drill on campus. Science majors gathered on the quad discussing the drill. 

Then the Bulldog Alert, UNCA’s Emergency Notification System, came via text – “GAS Leak on campus on Univ. Heights near Rhoades Robinson/ Zeis, Stay clear of the area, AFD order evac of those bldgs. Exit toward Quad side.”

Shortly after the shuttle route was disrupted, and residents in the Woods dorm halls were evacuated. 

Student Kyris Hoosier received these hastily abbreviated alerts in her humanities class and interrupted the discussion to ask to save her 9-year-old asthmatic cat living in the Woods dorm halls. 

She fled across campus after promising to bring her cat Licorice back to the humanities class. 

“There were a lot of people out not knowing what’s going on, fire trucks coming, everybody was lost and it was a lot of chaos,” Hoosier said. “I forced my way into my dorm, and the RAs said ‘it’s not a good idea to go into the building’ but I was like I have an asthmatic cat in the building I have to go get.”

Still thinking it was a drill, senior Cador Jones, with only his slides and headphones, joined the flocks of people flowing from his dorm building at the call of the fire alarm. 

Campus construction that caused the gas leak. (Addison Wright)

“When we went outside there was a thick smell of gas in the air, and a lot of people were hearing different stuff from different people,” Jones said. “We received conflicting directions from different officials as the situation unfolded.”

Administrators kept the caps lock on as they continued to send campus wide texts around 12 p.m. that “displaced students” could use the SRC, the Highsmith food court and Brown Dining hall were closed, the Zeis parking lot was closed and meal options were being “mobilized.”

Rhodes Robinson, Zeis Hall, Brown Hall and the resident halls were reopened at around 12:30 p.m. 

“They’ve shut the gas off, they’re patching it and they’ve opened up and cleared the buildings and they’re fine to go back into,” said Krumpe at 12:12 p.m.

According to the final campus-wide text, “Safety Concerns should be directed to University Police at 828-232-5000 or X5000 from any campus phone landline. Additional updates will be provided as needed.”

UNCA Chancellor Kimberly van Noort, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs M​eghan Harte Weyant, University police officials, and other campus officials said to check the bulldog alerts for more information about the gas leak.

Construction on campus is projected to continue through April 2024, and updates can be found on the website linked here.

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