Fire investigation leads to arrest

By Greg Rivara

A DeKalb Police and Fire Department investigation into Friday morning’s Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity house fire has led to the arrest of one fraternity member.

Christopher Leman, 20, 1300 Blackhawk Road, was charged by DeKalb Police with reckless conduct in connection with the blaze that caused an estimated $50,000 damage and left 54 people homeless.

Leman was released Friday on a $1,000 bond. If convicted, Leman faces a maximum one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Twenty-nine firefighters using 10 vehicles from the DeKalb and Sycamore Fire Departments needed 45 minutes to control the fire and battled the blaze for five hours.

Twelve residents were treated and released from Kishwaukee Community Hospital for smoke inhalation. A firefighter also was treated and released for a minor hand injury, DeKalb Fire Chief Jeff Long said.

A second-story room was gutted during the blaze. Investigators declined to release other details as they continue their investigation into the fire’s origin and cause.

“The fraternity building is well-constructed, but lots of cleaning from top to bottom is going to be necessary before it can be reoccupied,” DeKalb Assistant Fire Chief David Walker said.

Jon Dalton, vice president for student affairs, said fraternity members displaced because of the fire can stay for a week in NIU residence halls free of charge. Students who wish to remain in these or other NIU facilities until the end of the semester may do so at a pro-rated charge basis, he said.

NIU administrators are hopeful that the displaced students will be able “to continue their studies with normalcy,” Dalton said. Dalton praised other greek row residents for offering temporary clothing and shelter during the incident.

Although Leman was arrested, Dalton said NIU will have “no direct student contact” in the incident if improprieties are found to be involved.

Dalton said the fraternity house is considered an off-campus residency, and therefore NIU does not have direct jurisdiction to impose any sanctions pending the outcome of Leman’s arrest.

David Stewart, temporary greek activities coordinator, said he is unaware if the InterFraternity Council, NIU administrators or the NIU Student Judicial Office will or could become involved with the incident.

“I don’t think the IFC can punish the individual for the incident,” he said. Any manner of action in response to the fire would come from the internal workings of the fraternity, Stewart said.

IFC President Jim Valentine said internal actions would probably come from the fraternity’s housing corporation. The housing corporation is composed of fraternity alumni and owns the fraternity house, making fraternity members living in the house similiar to boarders, Valentine said.

Since the housing corporation is responsible for the structure, any decision regarding the incident would be made by the housing corporation and fraternity members, he said.

Valentine and Stewart said there was no relation between the party and the fire, and that the party was within all IFC guidelines.