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Sigma Nu fire ruled unintentional, sparks housing inspections

Gillian Seaman

Issue date: 9/25/09 Section: News
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Since January 2000, 134 people have died in fires on college campuses across the nation. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the fire that damaged the Sigma Nu fraternity house. Yet, the incident brought to the forefront the issue of fire safety on the CWRU campus.

While the fire was terrible, Jason Goodrick, the associate director for emergency management, police and security services at CWRU, argues that the lack of injuries are evidence that CWRU's fire prevention and safety programs are a success. Last spring, the university combined several fire safety programs into a centralized office at Police and Security Service.  The program's focus is to reduce the risk of fires and related injuries through education and prevention. In fact, just days before the actual fire, the university staff reviewed Sigma Nu's fire plan with the brothers and conducted a live drill.

But like any major incident that occurs on a college campus, the fire at the Sigma Nu fraternity house still generated numerous rumors about its origin and consequences for the CWRU community at large, despite the lack of injuries.

Goodrick contradicted rumors that the fire had been in intentional. "While the specific source of ignition for the fire is still under investigation by the university, we do know that it was accidental, caused by human error, and not intentional in nature," he said. Furthermore, he confirmed that the Cleveland fire department hoses caused the water damage, as the Sigma Nu building was constructed before sprinklers were mandated.

Regardless of the fire's cause, the consequences of the incident have been incredibly stressful for Sigma Nu's brothers. Due to fire and water damage, the brothers were forced to leave their fraternity house and take up temporary residence in Cutler on north side until they were able to move back into their house.

The transition was made easier due to the actions of various members of the community. Many groups offered the chapter assistance. The Alpha Chi Omega sorority even allowed the chapter to hold its bid dinner in their house. The CWRU administration also greatly assisted the fraternity.
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