Fraternities continue to play with fire
Three Greek houses involved in fire related incidents last weekend
by Mark Karpf, Adam Keane and David Story, NewsNetNebraska
Three days after an early morning fatal fire occurred Friday on Nebraska Wesleyan’s campus, Jan Yuassi, a spokeswoman for St. Elizabeth Hospital said both Travis Munn, 22, of Beatrice and Aaron McGuire, 20, of Sioux Falls, S.D. are in fair condition. David Spittler, 20, of Elkhorn is in serious condition.
But despite Friday’s fatal fire and a series of other fires at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this semester, three UNL fraternities were involved in fire related mischief this weekend.
Officer Aaron Pembleton of University Police, said a fire alarm at the Phi Kappa Psi house was set off after a piece of paper, which was taped to a door, was set on fire. And two fraternities, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Sigma Chi, both had occurrences of tampering with fire extinguishers and falsely setting off fire alarms.
Junior pre-criminal justice major, Lane Hohlen was cited for false reporting and fire alarm after he activated a fire extinguisher three times at the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity house Sunday morning.
Pembleton said the Phi Kappa Psi incident was still under investigation, however, Lane Colburn, a junior pre-criminal justice major was cited for false reporting and setting off a fire alarm in Sigma Phi Epsilon’s early morning Sunday incident. The Sigma Chi incident is also still under investigation.
He said any time there is a residence with that many people living in a small area, caution must always be in the minds of the residents.
“You always gotta think there’s other people that may not know what’s going on,” he said.
Pembleton went on to say that if a fire alarm goes off intentionally or unintentionally, there will always be a charge. “It’s a criminal charge,” he said.
Linda Schwartzkopf, director of judicial affairs, said she was unaware of the above acts, but that she was disturbed by them. She said that if there is an issue here, it will be dealt with.
“(But) given the events on Wesleyan’s campus and our incidences on our campus, (fire safety) is a topic that needs to be discussed,” she said.
Schwartzkopf did say that Greek Affairs, The Fire Inspection Office and the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity – which had its own small basement fire the first week of September – tried to sponsor a symposium on fire safety earlier this month, but because of a lack of participation due to scheduling conflicts, the symposium was canceled.
An unknown individual set off the fire extinguisher Saturday morning at the Sigma Chi Fraternity house. The incident is still under investigation. by David Story, NewsNetNebraska
She said the target audience for the symposium was Greek alumni members who were on the boards of their respective houses. Schwartzkopf said the goal of the seminar was to educate the members on fire safety and to even discuss the issues of sprinkler systems in the many UNL Greek-affiliated houses that do not have them.
Four of 19 fraternities and seven of 13 sororities are without sprinkler systems at UNL.
“All of our houses meet fire codes,” Schwartzkopf said, mentioning that a lot of houses have voluntarily added sprinkler system in the last five years and many are thinking about adding them in the next five years.
When asked if she felt that the Lincoln city council should mandate that all large houses with a large population living in them should be required to have sprinkler systems, Schwartzkopf said she hoped this problem could be solved within the campus community.
But a lot of campus residents were shocked when they discovered that such large houses lodging so many people did not have sprinklers.
Brandon Stickley, a junior physical therapy major, said he was pretty surprised that the Wesleyan fraternity did not have a sprinkler system.
“I assumed that it was part of a code,” he said. “I imagine the parents are gonna be pretty outraged about that.”
Even more shocking for some though, was the fact that three fraternities on UNL’s campus were involved in some pranks with fire this weekend.
Dustin Penner, a junior broadcasting major, said he was amazed to hear about the fraternities that were involved with such trouble, but said people will always think that sort of thing is funny, that is until someone gets hurt.
“There’s gonna be people that are setting off fire alarms at 12:30 at night,” he said. “It happens.”