Fraternity fire leaves SDSU students homeless
By Peter Harriman
Seven to eight members of the South Dakota State University chapter of Sigma Phi Delta fraternity were left homeless when fire destroyed the fraternity house early Saturday at 714 11th Ave. in Brookings.
At least one member who was sleeping in the house at the time and possibly several guests were roused by another fraternity member who saw the blaze, which appeared to have started in a couch on the front porch. All were forced to exit from the rear of the building to avoid the flames.There were no injuries, according to Marysz Rames, SDSU vice president for student affairs.
The Brookings Fire Department still is investigating the fire, and Deputy Fire Chief Pete Bolzer has deferred comment on the cause.
Kathy Reid, disaster services coordinator for the Brookings County chapter of the American Red Cross, talked to fraternity members Saturday morning. She said they told her one of the members came home about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, saw the fire and quickly entered the house to alert anyone inside.
The fraternity is made up of engineering students. Rames said seven of them, all upperclassmen, lived at the fraternity house. SDSU Greek life adviser Trisha Nordaune thought eight people lived there. At least several apparently were out of town when the fire occurred.
Both Rames and Reid, who saw the house after the fire, say it is severely damaged."It is pretty devastated. Almost everything is gone," Rames said.
The Red Cross has offered to find motel rooms for the fraternity members on a short-term basis, but they already have made housing arrangements with friends, according to Reid.
"They came to our office this morning, and we got them lined up with client assistance cards for clothing and food. They said they would let us know if they need a motel room, but they felt they could find friends to stay with. Our offer will remain open for the next two weeks," Reid said.
Rames said SDSU officials also are working to make on-campus housing and a meal plan available.
"I've got empty beds if they need them," SDSU residential life director Michael Kervin said, and the SDSU engineering college is helping the students replace books lost in the fire.
Rames said one fraternity member was able to save a senior project from the flames, and "this far into the semester, we should be able to help them stay on track," she said. The spring semester ends in May.
Nordaune says "Greek life, as a whole, the Red Cross and the university have all pulled together," and a recovery plan is pretty much in place.
"It's amazing," she said.
"The men of Sigma Phi Delta are very efficient. They had a plan in place for something like this. They definitely have their act together on what needs to be done."