Fraternity damaged by fire undergoes drastic repairs

Members of a fraternity damaged by fire on March 17 have little to worry about as the school year fast approaches, said Matt Wilson, Delta Tau Delta house corporation director .

The fire damaged portions of the residence, located at 401 E. John St. in Champaign, including the attic as well as several of the third floor living areas, Wilson said.

Renovations have been in the works to make the building habitable once again, he added.

The amount of damage was extensive and required significant money and work to complete, Wilson said.

“We haven’t added all of the costs up yet,” Wilson said, “But the toll will probably wind up close to half a million dollars in renovations.”

The cost to repair the damage to the house will not place a burden on any members of the house, Wilson said, since the house is well-covered by insurance.

“The fraternity’s insurance policy covered everything but the contents of the house,” Wilson said. “This means that none of the furniture is covered. In the cases where residents had lost any of their own belongings in the fire, the students should realize that they need to check their parent’s homeowners insurance policies. It’s important to check if they are covered by their parents’ plan. If they are not, hopefully the have their own renter’s insurance.”

Wilson said that he had not heard any complaints or worries from the fraternity members regarding lost possessions.

The house was further damaged from both smoke and the water used by the fire department to put the flames out.

“The whole interior of the house has been painted,” Wilson said. “All of the floorings were replaced because they had gotten so wet … top to bottom, everything is pretty much brand new.”

Delta Tau Delta president Nick Vainisi, junior in business, remembers the complications that arose following the fire.

“The fire occurred when we were all on spring break,” Vainisi said. “Originally it was a pretty rough time to deal with. There were 56 guys living in the house, and everybody was up in the air on where they were going to live the rest of the year.”

Not only were the student residents upset about having no place to live, Vainisi said, but the fraternity members were also disappointed that they were missing out on an important part of their fraternity experience.

“It wasn’t just the fact that people didn’t have a place to live,” Vainisi said, “It’s an experience type of thing. Living in a fraternity house only comes around once in a lifetime.”

The disaster made it difficult for members of the fraternity to involve themselves in the same activities they participated in prior to the accident, Vainisi said.

“Everybody got split up after the fire,” Vainisi said. “Some people went to the dorms while others were put in apartments. It made it a lot harder to plan things. Setting up meetings every week was a harder process, making social events harder to plan also.”

Fraternity houses, which shelter many more people than other campus properties, present unique obstacles for its residents, said Urbana Fire Chief Mike Dilley.

“It can be much easier to get out of a smaller house,” Dilley said. “A large fraternity house has a different means of egress. If one exit of the fraternity is blocked, how will someone get out, or get to the ground floor, without getting hurt? Getting out of the building is a huge thing.”

Renovations were done on parts of the house which were not damaged by the fire, Wilson said.

The organization moved into the building in 2000, and had areas they fixed which they had not had time to address since then.

“We were able to do things now which we weren’t able to do then in 2000,” Wilson said. “That included painting the interior of the house, and fixing up the bathrooms. A lot of aspects of the house are improved which will make move-in better. These improvements have been the silver lining to this cloud.”

The Urbana Fire Department completes fire drills several times a year at each of the fraternity and sorority locations, Dilley said.

“Knowing where to go when there is a fire remains the main goal of the fire drills,” Dilley said. “Members of these houses have to take precautions and to not violate the fire code for the building.

One thing that we’ve noticed some people do is propping open fire doors which are meant to prevent fire smoke from extending into other parts of the house.”

Delta Tau Delta president Nick Vainisi said that the fraternity members are very excited about moving back into the newly refurbished house.

“We will definitely be on time for rush,” Vainisi said.

“There are big goals for moving in early, and being ready for rush. By the time Quad Day rolls around, things will have settled completely and be setup and presentable for potential new members.”