WATERVILLE — A candle left burning on a bureau in a dormitory room at Colby College Thursday caused a fire that damaged items in the room and prompted evacuation of the building.

Fire Chief David LaFountain said a working sprinkler system extinguished the fire in the first-floor dorm room and kept it from spreading to the rest of the building, known as East Quad.

“What could have been a big issue is not,” LaFountain said at the scene. “We didn’t apply water to this; the sprinklers took care of it.”

The fire was reported at 9:39 a.m. Around 10 a.m., students huddled outside the East Quad, at least two wearing bathrobes, while firefighters worked at the scene. The East Quad, which houses 126 students, is behind Miller Library. The fire was in Small Hall, which is a wing of East Quad.

“The candle burned down the top of the bureau and caught some clothes on the floor on fire and caught a closet door that was open,” LaFountain said. “So there’s burn damage to walls and a door, but overall, without sprinklers, it would have been a lot worse.”

He said there were many items on the bureau where the candle was burning, including perfumes and an aerosol can he believed to be hair spray.

“Obviously it was an accidental fire, so it’s turned over to the school and the insurance company to see what they want to do,” he said.

Three students, all 18, share the dorm room where the fire was — Stephanie Lai of New Jersey, Anna Doyle of Winthrop, and Emily Harper of Washington, LaFountain said. They were not in the room when the fire broke out, he said.

Colby spokeswoman Ruth Jacobs, who was at the scene, said fire alarms detecting smoke went off first and then the sprinkler system kicked in.

Jacobs said Colby prohibits candles in student rooms.

About 20 firefighters responded to the scene and Fairfield firefighters stood by at the Waterville fire station, according to LaFountain.

LaFountain said people need to be cautious when using candles.

“I think in the last 10 years, unattended candles have been one of the up and coming causes of fires for us,” he said, adding that cooking, heating and smoking are usual causes.

“Do not leave candles unattended,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

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