Discarded cigarette causes UNO apartment fire

Mar 03, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. —About 50 students were displaced Wednesday, after a fire broke out in a student housing building on the Pacific Campus of the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Listen to the 911 calls here

On Thursday, fire officials confirmed the fire started as a result of a discarded cigarette on the second-floor balcony of Scott Village's building G, near 63rd and Woolworth streets.

UNO's smoking policy prohibits any smoke or tobacco products inside any university buildings or state-owned vehicles.  To smoke on campus, users must be at least 10 feet from any building entrance.

Douglas County attorney Don Kleine said he doesn't believe anyone will face criminal charges from the fire. He said the smoking violation would be a policy issue for the university to decide any discipline.

University staff would not comment on what penalties await whoever is found responsible for starting the fire.

-- Video: UNO addresses students affected by apartment fire

Authorities said the fire was originally believed to have started on the third floor, but investigators discovered the origin on the second floor.

Students were allowed access to their units Thursday to gather necessary items.

“I was watching TV and all of the sudden I see people throw rocks against the window next door and they're yelling, ‘Get out! Get out! Get out!’’ said student Maddie Peterson. 

The fire was reported around 3:20 p.m., and it was under control by 6 p.m.

"With the winds today, it made it very difficult. Once the fire communicates into the attic space, the truss roof construction, there's not a whole lot to slow it down," said Battalion Chief Tim McCaw.

McCaw said the third story of the building was destroyed by fire, smoke and water. It is unclear how much damage was caused to the first and second floors.

"Most apartments are usually damaged by fire, or smoke or by water," McCaw said.

McCaw said 48-50 students are displaced due to the blaze. Dr. Dan Shipp, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, said all students who asked for new housing on campus were in a new dorm Thursday. A few students have gone back to live with family for the time being.

"I'm sure my apartment is at least soaked, if not smoke damaged," said student Ryan Peters. "Mostly my clothes were inside, my computer, which had a few important things on it."

University leaders said several metro companies have stepped forward offering help for displaced students as well as other university of Nebraska campuses.

The University of Nebraska Omaha Bookstore gave away $8,000 worth of textbooks, merchandise and other supplies to students affected by the fire.

The UNO Athletic Department said 8 freshman hockey players lived inside the apartment building, two of which were inside their rooms at the time of the fire. 

During the two-alarm fire, a nearby apartment building was evacuated due to the wind-driven blaze.

"We did evacuate the building directly to the northeast of the fire building, which contained another 48-50 students, as a precautionary measure because of the winds and the way the fire was going,” McCaw said. 

UNO said all students have been accounted for, and none were injured.  Fire apparatus engineer Jim Pingel suffered a minor injury and was treated at a nearby hospital.

How To Help

- Housing:
The university has on-campus resources to house any student displaced. "We appreciate all the offers for housing at homes and hotels, but at this point, we do not need to take advantage of these offers," the university said.

- Food donations:
Any food donations can be directed to the Maverick Food Pantry. These can be dropped off at the Milo Bail Student Center – Student Life office on the first floor.

- Monetary Donations:
For anyone who would like to financially support students affected by the fire, the University of Nebraska Foundation has established a fund on its website. Go to 
nufoundation.org to donate.

For more on how to help, click here.

UNO Chancellor John Christensen on Thursday released the following statement:

"On Wednesday, as Building G at Scott Court was on fire, I waited for confirmation that all students were accounted for and safe. We are all so thankful they were.

There is nothing more important to me personally -- and to UNO -- than the care of and attention to our students.

We have quickly moved to assess the short and long term needs of the displaced students. We will continue to do whatever we can to ease this very difficult situation. President Milliken and our Board of Regents have been very helpful and have offered to assist UNO however they can.

I want to commend the courage of the students who had to evacuate and the leadership and service of the Omaha Fire Department and the Omaha Police Department.

We are also grateful to the American Red Cross for partnering with UNO staff to meet the various needs of students Wednesday and today.

Lastly, a heartfelt thank you to the people of the Omaha area who flooded our phones with offers for guest bedrooms, clothes, food and donations. We would like to encourage anyone who wants to be helpful to send your donations to the local "Heartland Chapter" of the American Red Cross. http://www.redcross.org/ne/omaha.

UNO is very fortunate to call Omaha our home and to be part of such a caring and supportive community." 

Students affected by the fire went to the Scott Village Clubhouse to talk with counselors and staff.  American Red Cross staffers in the Scott Conference Center were giving out toiletries and helping with clothing, prescriptions and other needs.

Send breaking news photos and video to ulocal@ketv.com.

Read more: http://www.ketv.com/news/fire-reported-at-uno-apartments/24699086#ixzz2uuHOve3S

Bellingham house fire leaves 5 WWU students without a home Read more

Feb 24, 2014


BELLINGHAM - A fire damaged a house in the 1100 block of North Garden Street Wednesday morning, Feb. 19, leaving five Western Washington University students without a home.

All but two of the women who live in the house were in class when the residents started to smell something "funky" and a little smoky at about 8 a.m., said Ashley Novak, who was in the house at the time.

The smell was strongest in the kitchen and was present on the second floor as well, and when it didn't go away after about half an hour, the residents called the fire department.

Shortly after Bellingham firefighters arrived at the home, acrid smoke started escaping from the roof. The residents were able to get out of the home safely.

Two engines and a ladder truck parked in front of the home, and firefighters used the ladder to cut into an attic and the roof with a chainsaw, shooting water inside. Those cuts were made to release smoke and heat to improve conditions in the home for firefighters trying to find and attack the fire, interim Fire Chief Bill Newbold said.

Garden Street was closed between Chestnut and Maple streets as firefighters fought and investigated the blaze.

The fire appears to have started in an empty space between the second story and the home's attic, though the source of the fire was still undetermined Wednesday afternoon, Newbold said. He thought the house sustained at least $50,000 in damages.

The house isn't livable until it gets repaired, and Newbold said the renters have friends and family in the area who are helping them out.

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com.

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2014/02/19/3486160/bellingham-house-fire-closes-garden.html#storylink=cpy

Frostburg Student dies and Two injured

Feb 24, 2014

[CCFS Administrator]  [February 14, 2014 5:19 pm ]  [Views 35]

FROSTBURG, Md. —An early-morning fire at a home that was being used as a rental for college students in Frostburg killed one person and injured two others.

The State Fire Marshal's Office is looking into the two-alarm fire that happened shortly after 5 a.m. in the 100 block of Bowery Street in the small Western Maryland town.

Officials said nearly 75 firefighters from Allegany and Garrett counties were called to the home owned by Judy Knieriem. She told officials the two-story single-family home had been converted into college rentals for students at Frostburg State University.

There's no word yet on how the fire started, but firefighters said the second floor partially collapsed into the first floor, rendering it a complete loss.

Firefighters said one person died in the fire, while two others who lived there were able to escape with only minor injuries. A fourth occupant wasn't home at the time.

None of the firefighters were injured.

The victim's body is being taken to the Medical Examiner's Office to determine the person's identity and cause of death. Officials said while the unit was a college rental, they can't yet confirm if the victim was a college student.

As additional information becomes available The Center will keep you informed.

WBALTV.com News Story