September 25, 2018 | ° F

Fire damages fraternity house

Photo by Angelina Rha |

Fire trucks occupy Union Street early Monday morning as firefighters research the fire that broke out on the third floor of Gamma Sigma fraternity house. While the third floor is not stable, the cause of the fire is under an ongoing investigation.

Flames blazed just before midnight Sunday from the third floor of the Gamma Sigma co-ed fraternity house at 19 Union St. that 11 residents occupied, none of which sustained any injuries, local authorities said.

New Brunswick Fire Official William Petry said the cause is still under investigation as of late yesterday night.

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."

The University is offering emergency assistance and on-campus housing to Gamma Sigma house residents at a discounted rate, provided by the School of Arts and Sciences Dean of Students Office, said Media Relations Director Sandra Lanman.

"I understand that only nine of the eleven residents are students," Lanman said. "One of the students, as of this afternoon, had accepted on-campus housing but the others were still undecided. Emergency assistance would be made available to help them get back their books. We're working directly with the bookstore."

Several members of Gamma Sigma, a fraternity not registered with the University, refused to comment as they stood in the crowd of 20 to 30 watching firefighters work from across the street early Monday morning.

But 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."

Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity member Sreenesh Raja said while he did not 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 Monday 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.

Lanman said the Rutgers University Police Department did not participate in the fire or police action but instead offered any needed assistance to the students affected.

Caitlin Mahon

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