Thursday, May 24, 2007

Fire Codes Are Enforced in WV

Fire code violations close three WVU fraternity houses

MORGANTOWN, WV - Inspectors have condemned four of the seven West Virginia University fraternity houses they have inspected since the end of the spring term, Morgantown Fire Chief David Fetty said Wednesday afternoon.

Six fraternity houses have been condemned within the past year.

Fetty expects more fraternity houses to be condemned as inspections continue through the rest of the week.

“The condemnation rate during this [round of inspections] has been about 50 percent,” he said.

Inspectors are about halfway through the spring round of WVU sorority and fraternity house inspections, Fetty said.

The Phi Delta Theta house was condemned Wednesday, he said. The Pi Kappa Phi and Phi Gamma Delta houses were condemned Tuesday; the Phi Sigma Kappa house was shuttered on May 11.

Violations that caused the houses to be condemned were blocked entrances, holes in the ceilings and malfunctioning fire alarm systems, said Morgantown Fire Capt. Mark Caravasos.

The most serious violations at all three houses, Fetty said, were the lack of working fire alarms and primary and secondary exits, “three things that we will not overlook.’’

The utilities to the houses have been shut off, Morgantown Fire Capt. Mark Caravasos said, and no one will be allowed inside until the problems are fixed.

No one was living in the Pi Kappa Phi or Phi Sigma Kappa houses, but six residents at the Phi Gamma Delta house will have to find alternative housing this summer, said Ron Justice, assistant dean of student affairs. Summer classes started Monday.

Fourteen members who had planned to live in the Phi Gamma Delta house this fall will also have to find other housing.

Every fraternity and sorority house is inspected routinely, Fetty said.

Sorority houses are often cited for violations but they rarely raise to the level of condemnation, Fetty said. Unlike fraternities, sorority houses in Morgantown have adult supervision in the house, which cuts down on violations, he said.

If the fraternities make all of the necessary repairs, students will be allowed back in by the fall semester, Fetty said.

“But I think that these violations by now are so common place and the amount of money to correct them so great that alumni are not interested in reinvesting. Some are being shut down,” Fetty said. “These are not simple things to correct.”

Pi Kappa Phi and Phi Sigma Kappa have asked to be included in the Greek Housing Initiative, a WVU program in which the university buys or leases a house and provides all future oversight and maintenance, Justice said.

By this time next year, Justice said, the university hopes to have seven of 14 fraternities in the program.

Matthew Modansky, president of the Interfraternity Council, said he supports the initiative because it adds stability to the future of the Greek organizations, but worries about the fraternities giving up some independence.

Two other fraternity houses were condemned within the past year.

The Delta Tau Delta house was closed in June and its charter was later revoked. WVU has since renovated the home after purchasing it in April for $1.23 million. It is now leased by Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

The Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, which was condemned following a January party attended by 600 people in a home with a maximum legal occupancy of 60, has not reopened.

Additional inspections were underway Wednesday at several other fraternity and sorority houses on campus that Fetty said he suspects may also have serious violations.