Local News

UNC Increases Security, Imposes Fines After Fifth Suspicious Dorm Fire

Posted February 1, 2000

— UNC-Chapel Hillofficials aremaking some changesafter another suspicious fire broke out at a dormitory Wednesday.

Police say a couch in a ninth-floor study loungecaught fire in Morrison Dorm. It is the fifth fire at the dorm since November, and follows the same pattern as the others: it occurred in the middle of the night in a study lounge.

Fire crews evacuated the building around 1 a.m. No one was injured in the fire, but some students did not leave when the alarm sounded.

Students who fail to evacuate when an alarm sounds will now be fined. The misdemeanor charge could cost students $10 to $80 plus court costs. In addition, they could face discipline in the student judicial system.

All residents will also have to attend fire safety meetings.

Morrison houses about 900 students. It is one of the two largest residence halls on campus and does not have a sprinkler system. But that could change.

"The high-rise residence halls were built before there was a code requirement that sprinklers be placed in residence halls. However, the university is in the process of trying to acquire the monies necessary to install those systems," says Maj. Jeff Cracken of UNC Public Safety.

Currently, there are fire extinguishers in the common area on every floor of Morrison dorm.

The Chapel Hill Fire Department and UNC Public Safety are investigating the fire. They say it is too early to determine the cause, but consider the fire suspicious.

"There will be increased security presence in the residence hall areas due to this latest fire," McCracken says. Students say the nightly fire trucks outside could be a big inconvenience.

"You're ready for sleep and instead you have to get up, throw some clothes on and stand in the freezing cold for about a hour," said UNC student Kevin Freeman.

Student Anna Grubbs says this is the last fire at Morrison she will go through.

"This is the first one that I could smell, and I guess it was a little scarier," she says. "It was closer to our stuff and closer to us, and who knows when it'll be on my floor or in my room." In November, policearrested 19-year-old Daniel Sarrellof Arden and charged him with one count of first degree arson for one of the fires set that month. They say they consider him a suspect in the other cases.

Sarrell is still in a 24-hour treatment facility and was there when the latest fire started. Police do not consider him a suspect in this fire.

Police will not go into detail about their investigation. "We're going to put the same diligence behind this fire that we put into previous fires. We certainly hope to resolve the matter as quickly as possible," said UNC Police Chief Derek Poarch.

The FBI has not been called in to investigate this latest incident. andJulie Moos

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