MOSCOW, March 29 (RIA Novosti) – It took firefighters about three hours to extinguish a blaze in a building of Russia’s largest and oldest theatrical university, the Moscow emergencies service said in a statement on Friday.
It is unknown when exactly the roof and attic floor of the Russian University of Theatre Arts (GITIS) went ablaze, but firefighters were informed at 22:50 Moscow time, when the flames have already engulfed about 300 square meters.
The fire has quickly spread to an area of about 500 square meters because the building’s ceilings and floors contained wooden elements. Firefighting crews that arrived four minutes after receiving the call managed to stop the blaze from spreading only after midnight.
“The fire was put out at 2:10 Moscow time [22:10 Thursday GMT]. No casualties occurred,” the Moscow emergencies service said in a statement.
Efforts to tackle the blaze involved 70 people, or 20 firefighting teams. Short circuit is seen as a likely cause of the fire.
According to emergency officials, no serious damage was done to classrooms and other facilities at lower floors.
Moscow’s first deputy emergencies chief Alexander Gavrilov said last year’s safety inspection of the building found violations.
“One of them was that stage scenery was being kept on the attic floor, right under the roof,” he said.
Students, who left the building at about 21:00 on Thursday said they saw workers in the area where the fire started, but the university’s management denied the information.
The students also said they felt a faint smell of smoke and a fire alarm briefly activated shortly before their departure, but they were unable to find any combustion and left.
The university was founded in 1878. About 1500 students, qualification-advancement students and post-graduates study here annually.