A fire that caused an estimated $150,000 to $200,000 damage to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house has accelerated the fraternity's plans to build a new house, the president of the fraternity said today.
Chris Sheldon, president of SAE, said the house corporation board had been planning to build a new house on the same property at 1301 West Campus Rd. Details still have to be worked out, he said.
"It's been in the works about a year," Sheldon said, adding that "a new house this size" could cost close to $2 million.
A fire Monday evening destroyed two rooms on the second floor, two rooms on the third floor and part of the attic. Also, there was heavy smoke damage to the second and third floors in the north wing and moderate water damage to three rooms on the first floor.
Lawrence Fire Chief Jim McSwain said in a news conference Tuesday that the fire started in a room on the north wing of the three-story building. McSwain said the fire was caused by a candle that was left unattended by the room's occupants. The candle apparently ignited nearby bed linens, causing a fire to spread to a mattress and bamboo window blinds before moving up to the third floor.
Fire also damaged the SAE house in April 1984, when an electrical short ignited the buiiding. Damage was estimated at $85,000.
The SAE house does not have a sprinkler system. McSwain said Tuesday that 23 of KU's 41 occupied Greek houses are equipped with sprinkler systems. Sheldon said the fraternity plans to install a sprinkler system in the new house.
Sheldon said insurance agents still are assessing the fire, which was reported by a Kansas University police official at 10:50 p.m.
Fraternity members whose rooms were destroyed are staying in other rooms of the house or with friends off campus. Robert Turvey, associate director of the Student Assistance Center, said Tuesday that the students would have to make individual arrangements if they encounter problems with finals. Finals at KU began today.
Sheldon said he believed the fraternity members were coping well. Seven fraternity members lost all the belongings they had at school, including clothing, television sets, computers, books, class notes and other items.
"They all seem to be hanging in there pretty well," Sheldon said.