HSC arson repairs

By Greg Rivara

Repairs for an estimated $25,000 in damages resulting from a Jan. 29 arson fire in the Holmes Student Center are almost complete.

Judd Baker, Holmes Student Center director, said all repairs except the installation of two fire doors, ceiling tiles and “finishing work” are complete. NIU is waiting for the delivery of the fire doors, he said.

Damages to the student center could have been “much worse” if the fire would have damaged the electrical wiring and other utility pipes above the ceiling, Baker said.

“We really were very lucky,” the electrical system and utility pipes did not receive more damage, considering the origin of the fire, he said.

Physical Plant Superintendent Ed O’Donnell said the “complete figures are not in,” but he does not expect the repair costs to exceed the $25,000 originally projected.

Baker and the student center staff are considering changes in the building’s security as a result of the blaze, but the security revisions will not be easy, Baker said.

The staff is looking into “possibly shrinking down the building (access) during the weekends and vacation periods when the activity is really at a low,” he said. Baker cited NIU’s recent spring break as an example.

However, Baker said it would be difficult to secure specific portions of the student center after certain hours.

“You would really hate to lock areas off” because students use most of the space in the student center, he said.

The early-morning fire originated from a wooden bin used to store recyclable cardboard from the student center bookstore. There was no evidence that an accelerant was used in the blaze.

The fire occurred in a stairwell south of the locker room area near the Huskie Den. Fire damage was contained to the stairwell, but some smoke damage was visible in adjoining stairwells and rooms.

Although the fire is under investigation by the University Police Department and the DeKalb Fire Department, Baker said he was unaware of any new leads into the incident.

NIU is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the student center fire and other acts of arson and vandalism on campus.

Another arson fire, which caused an estimated $1,000 in damage, occurred at Stevenson Towers North on Feb. 4.

Lounge furniture was stacked in a pile at the residence hall, and officials believe the manner in which the furniture was stacked indicates the flammable material was intended to serve as an accelerant to the blaze.

An early morning fire Monday in Grant Towers North, ignited by the discharge of a two-foot-long roman candle, caused an estimated $4,000 worth of damage. Two-thousand residents were evacuated from the residence hall for about 45 minutes while firefighters battled the blaze.

Other incidents of vandalism on campus during this school year have occured in Zulauf Hall, the Psychology /Mathematics building and the Visual Arts Building. Flammable materials were set ablaze and other acts of vandalism involving fire have occurred.