SAE fire caused by damaged power strip

Jamie Anderson

Jamie Anderson

Just over a week ago, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house caught fire. Today, members are still trying to adjust to living away from each other and the house.

“There have been lots of offers for help and lots of donations,” said Brian Diede, president of SAE. “Five of us moved into Berg Hall, and five guys moved into a house right out of town.”

The cause of the fire was undetermined at the time, but the Brookings Fire Department has since found what sparked the blaze.

“The cause has been attributed to a damaged electric power strip cord,” said Darrell Hartmann, fire chief for Brookings. “The power strip was wedged tightly behind a freezer, and it damaged the copper conductors and created resistance heating.”

Improper air space around the freezer caused it to cycle more frequently causing stress to the electrical conductors. The circuit did not appear to be overloaded, said Hartmann.

“However, several boxes of financial records located near the power strip provided the initial light fuel source that helped spread the fire,” said Hartmann.

Damage in all parts of the house differed based on how far the fire spread and where it started.

“The structure is multi-level, and there is basically a north wing and south wing. The upper floor of the south wing is a complete loss,” said Hartmann. “The upper floor of the north wing has some smoke damage. All lower levels have water and smoke damage.”

Hartmann said that work could be done on the house to recover what remains. However, the lower levels would have to be gutted and redone, and decisions about that would have to be up to the fraternity and insurance agency.

“The house is owned by a housing corporation and alumni,” said Diede, a senior biology/pre-med major. “We will have a lot of meetings in the future on what to do with the house.”

The Brookings Red Cross was there for the fraternity brothers when they heard about the fire.

“We provided them food and clothing initially,” said Pat Powers, director of the Brookings Red Cross. “We offered housing, but they found accommodations, half from SDSU and half from others.”

The Red Cross provides short-term assistance and immediate needs. They provide services for all disasters and just want to help the community, said Powers.

Help has been coming from all areas in hopes to assist the SAE members in getting on their feet.

“UPC is doing a fundraiser, which is the Quietdrive concert in March, and they will also do a clothing drive with that,” said Diede. “It’s hard doing fundraisers at this point since we don’t know how much money we need.”

The Quietdrive concert will be held on March 3 in the Volstorff Ballroom starting at 8 p.m. It is free for SDSU students and $10 for non-students. Donations of any kind will be accepted, and all the funds will go to the members of SAE.

The fraternity members were able to recover some of their belongings that were not completely damaged in the fire.

“We were able to go in Saturday (Feb. 20). The five guys on the north wing got most of their stuff,” said Diede. “The five guys on the south wing lost a majority of their stuff. The major thing we lost was clothes.”

People have been very helpful to the SAE fraternity members throughout the last week, and that should continue into the near future, especially with the benefit concert.

“Thank you for the help,” said Diede. “The amount of support from everyone has been great.”