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Thread: Three Killed After Mississippi Fraternity Fire

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    Three Killed After Mississippi Fraternity Fire

    Updated: 08-27-2004 04:47:48 PM

    Three Killed After Mississippi Fraternity Fire


    HOLBROOK MOHR
    Associated Press

    OXFORD, Miss. (AP) -- A fire swept through a fraternity house at the University of Mississippi early Friday, killing three students during the first week of classes, school officials said.

    Twenty other students and a house mother escaped the two-story, brick- and wood-frame Alpha Tau Omega house, school spokesman Mitchell Diggs said. There were no reports of injuries. The cause was not immediately known.

    University spokesman Jeff Alford identified two of the victims as Jordan Williams, 20, of Atlanta, and William Townsend, 19, of Clarksdale, both sophomores majoring in accounting.

    Alford said the body of the third victim has not been identified. However, Alford said the third missing student from the fire had been identified as Howard Stone, 19, of Martinsville, Va., a sophomore political science major.

    Alford, assistant vice chancellor of student relations, said authorities believed the fire started in the living area.

    Firefighters needed about two hours to bring the blaze under control, chapter adviser Al Bell said. Hours later, smoke billowed out of where the roof had been, and much of the upper floor was in ruins.

    A fraternity member who was not at the house when the fire occurred said fellow members told him they woke up coughing and found smoke ``everywhere.''

    ``They said they just ran out as fast as they could, to get out of that building as fast as possible,'' said Sean Weidlein, 19, of Middleburg, Va.

    Among the survivors, ``things are pretty rough right now,'' Weidlein said.

    Fred Cummings, 19, a member of the Ole Miss cross country team who was out running at 6 a.m., said the smoke was so thick ``it would choke you up'' a mile away.

    ``When we saw it, the flames were about two stories above the building,'' he said.

    At least three fire trucks remained outside the house in the early afternoon, and students stood outside yellow police tape as authorities moved through the charred structure.

    Alford said the fraternity house had undergone a routine fire inspection Aug. 17, before students moved in for the fall semester. Most classes began Monday.

    Problems found included a lack of fire extinguishers in the kitchen area, paint stored in the basement and doors blocked with mattresses.

    Alford did not know of any citation issued to the fraternity.

    The chapter has about 100 members, Bell said. Temporary housing was being found for displaced students, he said.

    ``The entire student body is pretty upset about this. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Alpha Tau Omega chapter,'' said Gordon Fellows, Associate Student Body president at Ole Miss.

    Nearby fraternity houses were evacuated. ATO members were taken to one of them.

    Federal, state and local investigators will help determine the fire's cause, said Mark R. Chait, who heads the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives office in New Orleans.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=46&id=34571

    Photo below
    ROBERT JORDAN

    Firefighters fight a fire at the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity House on the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford, Miss. Friday Aug. 27, 2004 where three students are unaccounted for following an early-morning fire.

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    University of Mississippi Fire That Killed Three Students Being Investigated

    Updated: 08-28-2004 12:42:03 PM

    University of Mississippi Fire That Killed Three Students Being Investigated

    Associated Press

    OXFORD, Miss. (AP) -- Students at the University of Mississippi questioned the school's fire safety procedures as investigators returned to a charred fraternity house Saturday to find the cause of a blaze that killed three people.

    Twenty students and a house mother escaped the fire at the two-story, brick-and-wood frame Alpha Tau Omega house on Friday.

    "We going to do everything humanly possible to identify what may have happened here,'' Mark R. Chait, who heads the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives office in New Orleans, said Saturday.

    University spokesman Jeff Alford said the university enforces fire safety policies at school residences, but not fraternity houses. The ATO house had no sprinkler system.

    Krisha Garmon, 28, who lives in student housing down the street, said that while evacuation routes are posted at her building, "I've lived in the village four years and we've never had a fire drill.''

    The house had undergone a routine fire inspection Aug. 17 that found problems including a lack of fire extinguishers in the kitchen area, paint stored in the basement and doors blocked with mattresses, Alford said. No citation was issued to the fraternity.

    On Friday, firefighters needed about two hours to bring the blaze under control, chapter adviser Al Bell said. Hours later, smoke billowed out of where the roof had been, and much of the upper floor was in ruins.

    Fred Cummings, a member of the Ole Miss cross country team who was out running at 6 a.m., said the smoke was so thick "it would choke you up'' a mile away. "When we saw it, the flames were about two stories above the building,'' he said.

    A fraternity member who was not at the house when the fire occurred said fellow members told him they woke up coughing and found smoke "everywhere.''

    "They said they just ran out as fast as they could, to get out of that building as fast as possible,'' said Sean Weidlein, of Middleburg, Va.

    Alford identified two victims as William Townsend, 19, of Clarksdale, and Jordan Williams, 20, of Atlanta, both sophomores majoring in accounting.

    Also missing was Howard Stone, 19, of Martinsville, Va., a sophomore political science major. The body of the third victim had not been identified Saturday.

    Alford said authorities believed the fire started in the fraternity house's living area, but the cause was not immediately known.

    Wynn Smiley, Alpha Tau Omega's national CEO, said contractors had been scheduled to meet Friday morning to address deficiencies found during the fire inspection.

    "The things that couldn't be taken care of by the guys in the house were being talked about with the general contractor,'' Smiley said.

    Ole Miss has an enrollment of about 14,000, and more than one-third of the student body belongs to fraternities or sororities. The fire occurred about a block from "fraternity row,'' where most of the frat houses are located.
    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=46&id=34597
    Photo below
    by Robert Jordon

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