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Damage, But No Injuries After January Fire at Phi Delta Alpha Fraternity

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As they were playing video games at about 5 a.m. Sunday, January 10, Phi Delta Alpha fraternity brothers Aditya Sivaraman ’10 and Lane Zimmerman ’11 discovered flames flickering between the wall and second floor, near the chimney. After they used a fire extinguisher to no avail, they pulled the house fire alarm. Then, they joined others including John Alekna ’10, president of Phi Delta Alpha, to make sure their dazed friends got out of the house. It didn’t take long for the small blaze to grow. Alekna says he remembers thinking, as he shivered outside on the sidewalk (it was about 3 degrees that morning), “I’m going to watch the house burn down.”

Phi Delta AlphaJohn Alekna ’10 (left), president of Phi Delta Alpha, and Ethan Lubka ’10, vice president and moderator of the Greek Leadership Council, in front of their 5 Webster Avenue fraternity that suffered severe damage as a result of a January 10 fire. Lubka says, “We’re making renovations that will make it last another hundred years.” (photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)

But thanks to a response within minutes by the Hanover Fire Department, and a sprinkler system that worked exactly as it should, the house was saved. Later, members of the fire department told the Valley News that the students “did all the right things.” For their part, the students gave the fire fighters a standing ovation at a meeting on campus the following afternoon.

There was, however, considerable damage. Gallons of water poured down on computers, cell phones, and other possessions. Heavy smoke and wet plaster ruined clothes. “I found my laptop underwater,” says Alekna. The fire, whose cause is undetermined, started between the house’s second and third floors, near the chimney.

Speaking about a month after the fire, Alekna says that he has been overwhelmed by the response of the Dartmouth community. “We’ve received over a hundred blitzes from alumni, and they have been extremely supportive.” Alumni who own clothing stores have offered steep discounts, and others at computer companies have recovered data from ruined hard drives.

Students across campus donated clothes to the 25 displaced brothers—some of whom had to leave the building in their bare feet. Staff from the Dean of the College office and elsewhere provided meals and housing. Other fraternities offered building space for Phi Delt’s meetings. “The campus has shown its true colors,” says Alekna.

In February, the fraternity started renovations to the 108-year-old building, including installing new wiring, revamping the heating system, and restoring woodwork. Alekna is hopeful that they can move back in for fall 2010. “We’re going to come back even stronger,” he says.

By STEVE SMITH

Last Updated: 3/10/10