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Many Recall UNC Fire as Anniversary Approaches

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CHAPEL HILL — Very few in the Triangle will soon forgetMothers Day, 1996. Five mothers each lost a child in an early morning fireinside a University of North Carolina fraternity house. Today, thegutted Phi Delta Gamma house still stands on Cameron Street, a monument to tragedy, but much has changed in Chapel Hill to ensure such a tragedywon't occur again.

As they will again this year, UNC seniors received their diplomas onMothers Day last year, but there was little joy on campus that day. Fireinvestigators said a sprinkler system might have saved those five lostlives.

The fraternity has decided to let the house stand and to renovate theinside. Blueprints show two stairwells on either side of the house withfire doors, a sprinkler system and other state-of-the-art fire safetyfeatures. Alumni Chairman Dave Batten says the new interior will beconstructed with non-combustible materials.

The fraternity house will not be the only building in Chapel Hill withsprinklers. After last year's fire, city leaders passed one of the mostcomprehensive sprinkler laws in the country.

Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones says living in Chapel Hill is gettingsafer.

But, while the law and the look of the fraternity house may change, itwon't help anyone forget what happened there last May. UNC student DavidWagoner says people on campus seems to be much moreaware of their safety.

Construction on the interior of the Phi Delta Gamma house is expectedto begin this summer. Fraternity members hope to be able to move back inby the fall in 1998. Inside the house there will be a memorial room withplaques to honor the memories of the five people who died there.

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