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UW-Whitewater Sorority Was in Process of Installing Fire Sprinkler System When Fire Occurred

On March 14, a morning fire at the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority house at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater campus displaced 23 students. The sorority was in the process of retrofitting a fire sprinkler system in the house and the system was not yet operational. State law has required all Greek housing to be equipped with fire sprinkler systems since January 1, 2014, but the sorority had fallen behind the deadline.

Dan Gengler, a retired fire official who represents the nonprofit Wisconsin Chapter of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA-WI), says the fire is a reminder to all Greek organizations throughout Wisconsin to comply with the state legislation.

“It is sad that they were trying to do the right thing and comply with the law by installing fire sprinklers, but unfortunately they did not meet the deadline,” states Gengler. “If they had met the deadline, the fire would have been controlled or extinguished by the fire sprinklers. It’s likely that only a simple mop-up and perhaps some smoke ventilation would be needed, and the students would have been able to return to their sorority house the very same day.”

Instead, the school’s entire community is affected by the fire as it gathers necessary supplies and university officials find rooms for the students — rooms where the students will likely stay for the remainder of the semester.

Gengler notes that there are some Greek organizations throughout the state that still have not complied with the fire sprinkler requirements for Greek housing, and he urges them to have the work done immediately.

“A fire like this one can happen at anytime, so Greek organizations cannot afford to stall any longer,” adds Gengler. “Parents should also be aware of whether or not their children are living in a sprinklered Greek house.”

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