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Everyone Safe After Second Fraternity Fire

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — June 9, 1996, 8:55 a.m.

Another fire broke out at a UNC-Chapel Hill fraternity house Saturday morning, less than a month after a similar fire on the campus killed five and injured three. In the latest incident everyone made it out safely. Credit was given to a new fire alarm system, stairway and fire evacuation plans.

Saturday's fire broke out about 6:45 a.m. in a couch in the basement of the Sigma Chi house. It was extinguished within minutes, according to Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones.

The seven fraternity members and one female guest were asleep at the time, but the fire alarm system sounded, enabling them to ensure that everyone was accounted for. They climbed to safety down a fire escape. A fraternity member then ran to call 911.

"Everyone was out within 20 seconds," said David Redding, the Sigma Chi house manager. He said the brothers had previously discussed evacuation plans.

The fire immediately drew comparison with the blaze that occurred at the Phi Gamma Delta house early Mother's Day morning, which was also graduation day on the UNC campus. That fire began from a cigarette that smoldered in a trash bag in the basement, then quickly moved up stairwells, trapping people in their rooms as they slept at dawn.

Phi Gamma Delta had no sprinklers or fire alarm system.

"(Today's fire) just reinforces what I already said, and what I already believe," Jones said. "We just need to have sprinklers in these houses. While we had a successful outcome here, it could have easily been as bad an outcome as the Phi Gam house."

A bill in the General Assembly to give Chapel Hill the authority to require sprinkler systems in fraternity and sorority houses is set for a vote Monday by the full House.

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