Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers on UVA Grounds had a fire in their house on Rugby Road Thursday night.
It happened around 10:00 p.m. Albemarle County Fire Rescue, the Charlottesville Fire Department and UVA Police arrived on scene.
According to ACFR, who is leading the investigation along with university police, the fire started in the basement. People inside used extinguishers to try to put out the fire before being forced to leave the room because of smoke. The smoke triggered the sprinkler system, something ACFR says was very important and could have saved lives.
“Activating that sprinkler system enabled them the opportunity to get out of the house safely. So everyone was able to evacuate safely. It also reduced the fire’s destruction which gave time for the fire rescue units to get on scene,” said Abbey Stumpf, ACFR PIO.
ACFR says thanks to the sprinkler systems limiting the damage, displaced residents of the building will be able to move back in more quickly.
The university says a small number of people were treated for smoke inhalation, but there was no other injuries.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Members of the Tri Delta sorority evacuated their sorority house on Wednesday at about 6 p.m. after a fire broke out in the basement, according to Prince George’s County Fire Department spokesperson Michael Yourishin.
The sorority house’s sprinkler system put out the bulk of the fire, Yourishin said. Nobody in the house was injured.
“It just goes to show you the importance of having a sprinkler system in buildings like that,” Yourishin said.
Members of the sorority were evacuated for about an hour after the fire started in a dryer in the laundry room, said Tri Delta member Ellie Laffargue.
Laffargue, a junior public health science major, was in her room watching “Gilmore Girls” when the house’s fire alarms went off. At first, she thought it was one of many false alarms that occur in the house when sorority members blow dry their hair or accidentally set the alarms off, she said.
Laffargue said she darted down the stairs without shoes on after she heard the house chef scream at residents to evacuate.
Once it was safe to return back into the building, Laffargue says many of the residents noticed smoke in the hallways and in their rooms.
“Even when we were allowed back in, a lot of girls stayed outside because of how bad it smelled,” Laffargue said.
The laundry room is off-limits to residents for the next couple days due to smoke and water damage from the sprinklers, she added.
The cause of the fire that ravaged the back side of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house at UNA has not been determined. Florence Fire Department investigators returned to the Pine Street fraternity house Thursday morning to investigate. Inspector Ryan Orrick said the fire started on the backside of the second floor in the area of an attached deck, but it will be more difficult to determine the cause.
He took photographs of the charred house, and collected samples to be sent for analysis in hopes of finding what sparked the blaze. “This is not uncommon in a large loss fire such as this,” Orrick said of taking time to find the cause. Orrick said the Florence Fire Department allowed fraternity members to enter the house — except the back portion where much of the fire damage was concentrated — to remove belongings.
Members of the fraternity removed boxes of personal belongings, including clothes and school items. Water dripped from a bag of school books one member carried out of the house, and another said water was still dripping from his mattress in a second-floor bedroom. Returning to the house brought some relief to fraternity members and alumni of the chapter who Wednesday watched flames come through the roof of the house for more than an hour.
“It was not as bad as I thought it would be,” alumnus Russ LeMay said. He was on the scene Wednesday and back at the house early Thursday morning to assist members and survey the damage. He said a determination about the fate of the house would be made later, but he was more optimistic that portions might be salvageable.
Bill Rogers, treasurer of the house corporation, said the house had recently passed the necessary fire inspection, and the sprinkler system inside the house worked as it should. The fire alarms could be heard outside the house Wednesday. Eight members of the fraternity lived in the house. No one was injured.