Phi Delt fire will likely displace residents for remainder of term

by Savannah Eller | 2/28/20 2:10am

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The fire at Phi Delta Alpha on Sunday was extinguished quickly, but the building suffered water damage from sprinklers.

by Peter Charalambous / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

A small fire at the Phi Delta Alpha fraternity house last weekend caused by the “careless discharge of what we believe was some smoking material” will likely displace residents for the rest of the term, according to Hanover fire department chief Martin McMillan. 

First responders responded to the fire on Sunday afternoon. The Hanover, Hartford and Lebanon fire departments all responded to the incident. According to McMillan, a trash can caught fire in the third-floor bathroom of the house, setting off two sprinklers. Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire, which was confined to the bathroom and was already mostly put out by the sprinklers. 

McMillan said that the Hanover fire department’s preliminary investigation found that the cause of the fire was accidental.

The College relocated residents of the house into temporary accommodations in residence halls on campus after the fire, according to College spokesperson Diana Lawrence. 

According to McMillan, the structure suffered minor fire damage but was impacted primarily by seeping water from the sprinkler system. He said Phi Delt would likely need to fix water damage before the house could be habitable again. Preventing mold and electrical issues will require opening some walls in the house, he said. 

McMillan said that the fire prevention system causing more damage than the fire itself is sometimes unavoidable. 

“The sprinkler basically put the fire out, which was relatively small to begin with, and then what we end up with is a water problem,” he said. 

Associate director of residential operations Bernard Haskell said that residents of the building will remain in temporary accommodations until the Hanover fire department confirms that the building is safe and the Greek organization decides to allow students to return. Phi Delt is taking measures to repair damage, according to Haskell.

A building inspector and Hanover fire marshal Michael Hinsley will do a walk-through check when repairs are completed, according to McMillan. 

McMillan said that his impression of Phi Delt’s plan was that repairs would take place in the coming few weeks and that residents would likely not move back in until the beginning of next term. 

“My understanding was they were going to … wait and actually put the building back to normal so that people can move in during winter break,” he said. 

McMillan said that the timeframe of repairs and how long students will have to live elsewhere is ultimately up to Phi Delt and the College. 

Phi Delt president Sean Keough ’20 declined to comment.