Wednesday night’s Furnas Hall fire started when a “new member” of Theta Tau Mu Gamma left an engineering project unattended in the engineering fraternity’s Furnas 706 lounge, according to fraternity President Eugene Liang.
Liang, in a statement provided to The Spectrum, wrote that the student was working on his thermodynamics project when a piece of steel wool came in contact with an “electric current source” while the student left for 15-20 minutes to get dinner. He wrote the steel wool ignited and “burned through adjacent furniture” and the floor’s sprinkler system flooded Furnas 706, the floor’s hallway and its elevator shaft in “four inches of water.”
Liang wrote the fire, which was a result of the student’s “sleep deprivation and poor judgement,” damaged –– aside from the fraternity’s property –– a wifi router, 48 ceiling tiles, five lamps and the building’s door.
University Police Deputy Chief Joshua Sticht said UPD believes the fire, which UPD first became notified of at 7:02 p.m., was an accident but is still waiting on a final report from a state fire investigator. UB sent out two alerts after Amherst PD and the Amherst Fire Department assisted in responding at the scene and reopened the building at 7 a.m. Thursday. UB Spokesperson John DellaContrada said the fire did not cause any injuries.
“Moving forward, a main goal of the incoming spring 2020 administration will be to promote workplace safety and hazardous material management among incoming members,” Liang said. “We will also be inspecting and taking a proactive approach to ensure that Furnas 706 is in compliance with school fire codes.”
“We apologize profusely for the inconvenience and hassle that we’ve caused, and wish to express our gratefulness for the university staff and for the space provided to us by the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.”
UPD did not refer any students to Student Conduct and Advocacy and says the student who built the motor was “very cooperative” in the investigation.
Brenton J. Blanchet is the editor-in-chief and can be reached at Brenton.Blanchet@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @BrentonBlanchet.
Brenton J. Blanchet is the 2019-20 editor-in-chief of The Spectrum. His work has appeared in Billboard, Clash Magazine, DJBooth, PopCrush, The Face and more. Ask him about Mariah Carey.