Blaze burns fraternity house


Sigma Pi fraternity members found themselves temporarily homeless this weekend after a fire broke out in their house early Saturday morning.

Fire department officials said no one was injured in the fire at 917 Edgebrook Dr., which was reported at 2:21 a.m. Fire Investigator Mike Boyd said four DeKalb fire department units and one Sycamore unit responded and contained the blaze within 14 minutes.

The fire department is investigating the fire, which appears to have been started accidentally. Investigators have sent some samples of items from the fire to a laboratory to be analyzed to determine the cause of the fire.

Sigma Pi member Joe Peters discovered the fire when he was returning home for the night. Sigma Pi President Scott Zerega said the whole house is thankful to Peters because he went through the house and made sure the 17 residents present at the time of the fire were all out of the building.

Boyd said the flames and black smoke were coming from the mail room when the fire units arrived, but the fire was contained to the mail room and one apartment room. Heat from the fire broke several windows, but Zerega said most of the damage was caused by smoke and the fire extinguishing process.

While putting out the flames, the fire department had to break down every door and break through several walls and floors to ensure the fire had not spread any further and everyone was evacuated.

Fire department officials estimate the damage to be about $30,000.

All house residents had to move out temporarily, but were allowed back in by 5 p.m. on Sunday. The apartment of two members, Martin Orth and Andrew Shavez, was severely damaged. They will not be able to return for about one or two weeks because of a hole in their floor. Zerega said the damage to the room also included lost beds, clothes and books.

Orth and Shavez are living with other members of the fraternity until they can move back into their apartment. Gary Gresholdt, NIU vice president for Student Affairs, said the two members could move into a vacant unit in the 16-unit apartment-style fraternity house.

Zerega said the fire is especially disappointing to the members of the fraternity because they recently worked together to fix up the house.

“The rooms were all just redone and the house was just painted. The whole house has worked together to get everything cleaned up,” he said.

The members already have started working to repair the damaged walls, he said.

Zerega said he hoped insurance would cover the entire cost of the damages, because the fraternity has made great strides in reducing its debts.

This is the second fire at a fraternity house in the last year. Fire broke out at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house April 3, forcing 45 members to find alternative housing for four months.

A total of $150,000 was spent after that fire on repairs and bringing the building up to standards set by new building codes for 1995.