Sorority house fire near UW-Whitewater causes minor injury, $150,000 damage
WHITEWATER—A morning fire caused one minor injury and at least $150,000 damage at the Tri Sigma sorority house near the UW-Whitewater campus, authorities said.
The fire was reported at 10:44 a.m. Friday at 619 W. Main St., where smoke and flames were visible inside the first floor of the home. All occupants were out of the home when firefighters arrived, Whitewater fire Capt. Joe Uselding said.
One occupant was transported to Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center, Janesville, as a precaution, he said.
Smoke caused damage throughout the house, and one lower section of the house has fire damage, Uselding said.
The Whitewater police, fire and arson task force is investigating the cause, but Uselding said authorities do not believe it was arson.
Fire crews from Elkhorn, Fort Atkinson, La Grange, Janesville and Jefferson responded.
According to a news release from the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, the sorority house did not have an operational fire sprinkler in place.
A state law requires all sorority and fraternity housing to have sprinkler systems installed by Jan. 1 2014. According to the release, the sorority house “did not meet the (January) deadline” to get sprinklers in operation.
Dan Gengler, a coordinator for Fire Sprinkler Association, said the Whitewater Fire Department told him Friday the sorority was in the process of installing a fire sprinkler system, but the work had not been completed prior to the fire.
Gengler said a sprinkler system could have prevented much of the damage the fire caused.
The Gazette could not reach fire department on Friday to confirm Gengler’s statements.
About 25 women live in the home, but it was unknown how many were home at the time.
UW-Whitewater Office of Residence Life will provide housing for the displaced students, according to a UW-Whitewater news release. Property owner Michael Katchel was assisting the students with related needs, according to a Whitewater Police Department news release.
The Office of Academic Affairs will work with instructors to accommodate students who missed any exams or coursework. Counseling services are available at University Health and Counseling Services located in the Ambrose Health Center building and appointments may be made by calling 262-472-1305.
The house is near the southeast corner of the UW-Whitewater campus.