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The Department of Housing and Residence Life still determining who will pay costs after fire

By: Hali Harden, Staff Reporter

The fire that took place in the elevator of Building R in the Osprey Crossings March 14 left behind an estimated $50,000 in costs for damages and cleaning.

Director of Housing and Residence Life Paul Riel said the department has a policy that allows them to charge for cumulative charges, if they feel as though residents may be withholding information. However, because of the amount of money and the fact that it was Spring Break, he said at this time they do not plan to require residents to pay for the cost of the damages.

Residence Life Coordinator Amanda Mueller, who oversees Osprey Crossings Building R, said they have not determined where funds will come from to cover costs. She said, as of April 4, the money has been taken out of The Department of Housing and Residence Life funds, and it is not their intent to charge residents.

Mueller said at a prior floor meeting, she told residents of the Crossings that there was a small possibility they would have to divide the costs between all residents. Students feel as though they may be the ones left to pay for the damages and expressed anger toward whoever ignited the fire.

“I just wish they would say who they are,” said Robbie Burkey, a business freshman and resident of Building R. “I just think it’s unfair that they’re making everyone else pay for what they did.”

Nicole Hernandez, an engineering freshmen and Building R resident, shared Burkey’s concerns and thinks the arsonist considered it a prank.

“I don’t understand how it’s funny. Someone could have been hurt. Now we’re all getting in trouble for it,” Hernandez said. “If they can’t blame just one person, I guess it is kind of fair for everyone to get charged.”

As a result of the fire, all grates were removed from elevators in the Crossings. Mueller said small burn marks were noticed by maintenance and custodial staff prior to the March 14 incident in other elevators in the Crossings. She said they believed the marks were newer and had planned on addressing the issue once residents returned from Spring Break.

There were also cameras in the elevator shafts, which were removed between the months of December and January. Reil and Mueller said they do not know why the cameras were removed or who was responsible for removing them. Mueller said she hoped to have cameras installed in the future, but that they are not in charge of when, or if, they go back in.

After the fire, Mueller said they offered free counseling to residents.

“Some students are going to have different feelings about [the fire]. Some students may just be able to brush it off and be like, okay this happened, it’s terrible, but, you know, that’s life,” Mueller said. “Other students might need a little bit more help in that situation.”

Mueller said the alarm and sprinkler system is what alerted students of the fire. At that time, she said the resident advisor on duty called the police and Mueller and ushered residents out of the building.

She said the incident was a terrible way to learn the fire safety system was working correctly but was glad that it was as efficient as it was by containing the fire to the elevator shaft. She said most of the damages incurred were because of smoke and water. She also said half the estimated cost of damages came from the cost to clean the water from the atrium, which was partially flooded.

The sprinkler system did not go off in residents’ rooms.

Riel said the amount of money the fire caused in damages is not as important as the fact that students’ lives were jeopardized. He said someone endangered the community by intentionally setting the elevator on fire.

“So I’m very upset about it. That person, or persons, should not be in our facility, should not be living here, should not be part of our community,” Riel said. “It was very dangerous what happened in that building.”

The University Police Department is still working on the case and is offering a $5,000 reward for any tips that lead to an arrest.

Email Hali Harden at [email protected].

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