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Students clean up, regroup after SNHU dorm fire

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 19. 2017 7:19PM
Firefighters work on a two-alarm fire at Greeley Hall, a residence building on the Southern New Hampshire University on Saturday night. (Jeffrey Hastings)

MANCHESTER — Students salvaged what belongings they could Sunday from a Southern New Hampshire University dormitory severely damaged by a fire Saturday night.

Residents of Greeley Hall were evacuated from the building just before 8 p.m. Saturday, when the building's fire alarms sounded; some students reported smoke coming from a third-floor window.

"Once we saw it, it caught fast," said Connor Decker, a senior from Salem and resident-advisor who lives on the second floor. "It went from apartment to apartment, then all the way through the roof. It was very rapid."

SNHU issued a statement Sunday saying an electrical issue appeared to be the cause of the fire, which the Manchester Fire Department estimated caused $500,000 in damage.

"We were relieved everyone was safe and no one was injured," SNHU President Paul LeBlanc said Sunday evening. "The fire department did a great job."

LeBlanc said SNHU would be able to relocate all 51 Greeley Hall residents in other campus housing.

"It's well past any state of being able to put people back in there," he said of Greeley Hall. "That was immediately apparent."

LeBlanc said Greeley Hall was already scheduled to be torn down after the end of the school year as the university replaces dorms built in the late 1970s with new campus housing.

LeBlanc said another of the old SNHU dorm buildings from that era was intentionally burned last year as a training exercise for firefighters.

"It really proved to be valuable last night," he said.

Some residents spent Saturday night with friends and others were sent to a local hotel. SNHU hosted a meeting Sunday afternoon in a gymnasium at the Fieldhouse to update dorm residents on temporary housing options.

LeBlanc said students whose computers were not able to be salvaged would be provided loaner laptops. LeBlanc said SNHU would also reimburse students for property lost in the fire.

Greeley residents displaced by the fire are to be granted excused absences from classes Monday and Tuesday.

On Sunday afternoon, junior Bryan Dwyer of Abington, Mass., a member of the SNHU baseball team, was carrying a box with his laptop and some baseball gloves — salvaged from his first-floor apartment.

"Other than that, I can't really get much," he said. "There's pretty bad water damage on my floor."

Six of the 12 apartment-style units sustained heavy damage from fire, smoke and water, fire officials said. Damage in a third-floor unit near at the middle of the building was visible through a broken window, including insulation hanging from the ceiling and a hole burned through the roof. 

Donovan Kazmouski, a sophomore from Dorchester, Mass., said he wasn't holding out much hope for his computer and other belongings, which he left behind when he rushed from the building.

"We actually saw smoke in our living room with the window shut, so we knew it was something big," Kazmouski said.

Decker said fire drills are conducted regularly and although students grow tired of the continued practice, it helped with a smooth evacuation Saturday night.

"I was like ‘guys — this one's real, so let's get out of here,'" Decker said.

Fires University Manchester

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