Students relocated to fraternity house after Tower A fire

By Cristina Holtzer / News Editor

The fire that prompted the recent evacuation of Litchfield Tower A occurred during maintenance work that inhibited the fire alarms on many floors from flashing or sounding.  

Pitt spokesman John Fedele said “coincidentally and unfortunately,” the alarms were down when a laptop caught fire in room 818 around 5:30 p.m. on Monday. Resident assistants then went door-to-door to tell students to evacuate. 

The University relocated 14 students from the building to an empty fraternity house on upper campus. 

Only three of the 14 students chose to stay in the empty fraternity house, Fedele said, and the rest are staying with friends. Fedele said the displaced students will be allowed back into their rooms on Friday, Dec. 5.

Dan Butz was not in his dorm room when his laptop caught fire on the eighth floor of Tower A. He was in his friend’s room studying for a psychology exam when he heard that there was a fire on his floor. 

“I found out later that it was in my room,” Butz, a freshman neuroscience major, said. “And that it was my computer.”

The fire spread to a pillow and part of a chair, according to Butz’s roommate, Jorge Garcia, but the sprinkler system put out the fire before it spread further. 

There was no “substantial damage” to anything in Tower A, Fedele said, aside from the carpet, desk and chair in room 818. Though there was no significant damage, the sprinkers caused room 818 to fill with so much water that it seeped into some of the adjacent rooms. 

Garcia,  a freshman neuroscience major, was in the room when the laptop caught fire.

“I heard a spark, and then it was just flames,” Garcia said. 

Garcia quickly ran to get his RA, who pulled the fire alarm and evacuated the floor. 

Howard Chu, another floor eight resident, was in his room sleeping when the fire alarms sounded around 5:30 p.m. last night. Chu, a freshman, said he and the other students who live in the first nine rooms of his floor returned to their rooms around 9 p.m. Chu said there was no damage to his room or property.

Garcia, who is staying in the empty Fraternity House Nine, said their belongings that they didn’t take with them were moved to empty rooms on different floors. The University will repair and clean the damaged rooms over the next few days so the students can return. Butz said Towers officials and fire investigators let him and the other students know at roughly 7 p.m. that they would be relocated to the empty fraternity house. Butz is a member of Delta Tau Delta, and he said he will be sleeping at his fraternity house until he can return to his room.

Chu said the fire alarm sounded and flashed, and the sprinklers came on on his floor. But several students from other floors in Tower A said neither the fire alarm nor the sprinklers went off on their floors. 

“Fortunately, the sprinkler system was still working and put out the fire before any personnel arrived to extinguish it,” Fedele said.

Butz said he still has to go through his belongings again to double-check for damage, but hadn’t noticed anything aside from his computer. 

“Oh yeah,” he said. “That’s gone.”