AD fire damage may approach $50K

by Charles Gardner | 5/24/02 5:00am

The electrical fire that started early yesterday morning in the Alpha Delta fraternity basement may have caused as much as $50,000 of damage to the house, though residents will be permitted to reoccupy their rooms as soon as today.

While the exact cause of the fire -- which began in a circuit box in the house's boiler room -- remained unknown as of yesterday, all serious damage was limited to the basement, and no injuries were reported.

AD Corporation President John Engelman '68 said he expected all debris to be cleared from the house by afternoon today. Repairs to fire damage in the basement will likely be completed by the middle of next week, though an eight-foot hole over the boiler room and a demolished wall in the basement -- cut by firefighters to help detect smoldering remnants of the blaze -- may take longer to fix.

The house was entirely covered by insurance, Engelman said. He said that College officials have speculated that the cost of the damage could be "as much as 40 or 50 thousand dollars," though he said he had not yet received an official estimate from inspectors.

Fraternity members "chose to room with friends" during the night of the fire, Assistant Director of Residential Life Cassie Barnhardt said, but they will be given the option of either returning to AD or obtaining alternative campus housing through the Office of Residential Life.

One potential deterrent to returning members -- 21 of whom lived in AD before the fire -- is the current lack of heat and hot water in the building as well as limited electrical service. Engelman said he was "not certain" when the utilities would come back on line, but hoped they could be restored by next week.

The fire began at approximately 12:45 a.m. yesterday during a non-alcoholic programming event attended by around 100 students, according to AD President Daniel Brown '03, triggering the house's sprinkler system and necessitating the evacuation of the building.

Engelman said the fire may have burned for as long as an hour inside sheetrock walls in the fraternity basement before the fire alarm was activated, but credited properly functioning smoke detectors and sprinklers for keeping the blaze from escalating.

Firefighters from Hanover, Lebanon and Hartford, Vt., arrived at the scene shortly afterwards, closing off East Wheelock Street as fraternity members and their guests looked on from the AD lawn.

Smoke continued to billow from the house -- which was shut down by fire inspectors -- for several hours, though fraternity residents were later permitted to re-enter the building to gather essential personal belongings. The fire was brought under control by around 2 a.m., but fire crews and ambulances remained for a time afterwards.

Though sprinkler systems have been required in fraternity houses for over 40 years, Engelman said Wednesday was the first instance he knew of that AD's sprinklers had been put to use.