Local News

Vacant UNC Fraternity House Burns

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CHAPEL HILL — March 28, 2001

A UNC-Chapel Hill fraternity house undergoing renovations, including a mandated sprinkler system, was the site of a fire Wednesday morning.

More than two dozen firefighters were called out to the Kappa Sigma fraternity house on Little Fraternity Court around 7:30 a.m. No one was living in the house.

Investigators say it is still unclear how the fire started.

"It appears the fire may have started in the basement area of the building. When I arrived there was heavy smoke showing -- especially from the upper roof and window area, but also the basement, says Caprice Mellon of the Chapel Hill Fire Department.

The fraternity house was expected to reopen in August. Renovations, estimated at $600,000, included new staircases, handicap access, Internet connections and sprinklers.

The house is located two doors away from near the Phi Gamma Delta house where five students were killed in a fire on May 12, 1996. The graduation day fire was blamed on a cigarette left smoldering in a trash can. The fraternity house did not have a sprinkler system.

As a result of that fire, the Town of Chapel Hill enacted an ordinance in 1997 requiring all Greek houses on campus to have sprinkler systems by fall 2001.

If fraternities and sororities do not have the sprinklers installed by Sept. 1, the Chapel Hill Fire Department says that they risk losing their certificate of occupancy, which means the town could refuse to allow students to live in the homes.

Reporter: Mark Roberts

Photographer: Keith Baker


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