Breaking News: Midnight fire damages fraternity house


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Photo by Angelina Rha |

Firefighters promptly respond to a 911 call at 19 Union Street.


Flames blazed just before midnight yesterday from the third floor of the Gamma Sigma co-ed fraternity house at 19 Union St., the cause of which is under investigation by local authorities.

No injuries or fatalities were reported but the third floor of the structure is not stable at this time, said New Brunswick Fire Department Deputy Chief Dean Wournell.

"Two [rooms on the third floor] had a lot of fire damage. The rest was smoke, water and minimal fire damage," Wournell said.

Three New Brunswick companies, a ladder truck and Edison Firefighters Assist and Search Team were dispatched following a call to 911 at midnight, Wournell said.

"They did a real nice job," he said. "The crews arrived [and] they got an aggressive interior attack and the flames were knocked down on the third floor within minutes of our arrival."

While several Gamma Sigma members in the crowd of 20 to 30 watching from across the street refused to comment, member Golda Speyer said she heard rumors of the actual cause from others present.

"They said it was a candle that caught some things on fire," said Speyer, a School of Arts and Sciences student. "I'm a part of the fraternity but I don't actually live in the house."

Members of the greek community watched the fire and aftermath from their fraternity and sorority houses nearby.

Delta Chi member Dan Kallas, who observed the fire from his fraternity house across the street, said he first thought his own house was on fire.

"We could smell smoke inside," said Kallas, a Cook College junior. "We smelt it and then we ran around; nothing was on fire [in our house] so we looked out the window and there was this big orange window at Gamma Sigma."

Skull fraternity member Sree Raja said while he didn't see any flames, he saw plenty of smoke.

"I was on my computer and I heard some girl crying outside. I look out my window and I see smoke coming out of the top of the Gamma Sigma house," said Raja, a School of Engineering junior. "It was just smoke at that point. It was around 12:15 a.m. There were a lot of firemen, there was glass breaking, glass falling from the house."

Zeta Tau Alpha member Gabrielle Daugherty said she watched the aftermath directly across the street from her sorority house.

"I just saw smoke pouring out of the back of the house and there were a couple people inside," said Daugherty, a Rutgers College junior. "I watched out here for a while. I didn't see the hose go off or anything so I went back inside because they got all the people out. I didn't even see flames though, I just saw smoke."

Fire trucks were still at the scene at 2:15 a.m. The cause is under an ongoing investigation by the New Brunswick Fire Prevention Borough and the New Brunswick Police Department.

Gamma Sigma is not registered with the University.


Caitlin Mahon

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