Originally created 02/08/00

Marshal: Candle led to dorm fire



CLEMSON, S.C. -- A fire that gutted a Clemson University dorm room this past weekend was caused by a candle, the school's fire marshal says.

The fire was ruled accidental, Clemson Fire Marshal Christopher Caracciolo said Monday. No one was in the room at the time of fire, the school said.

No one was hurt, but four students had to find other housing.

University officials also are concerned about the absence of sprinkler systems in older dormitories.

Almeda Jacks, vice president for student affairs, said more than 20 firefighters searched each room and pulled out three students who stayed in their rooms when the fire alarms sounded.

Freshman Brady Roberts of Greenville said he thought it was a false alarm and went back to bed. When he woke up nearly five hours later, he had black soot on his nose, Mr. Roberts said.

He said his sleeping body was probably hidden from whoever went into his room and opened a window, which he noticed when he woke up.

Ms. Jacks disputed there were any students left in the building.

About 1,200 Clemson students live in older dormitories without sprinkler systems. The buildings do have smoke alarms, fire hoses and water hookups.

Universities nationwide are trying to figure out how to install sprinkler systems into older buildings after three people died in a fire in a campus dormitory without a sprinkler system at Seton Hall University in New Jersey last month.

Ms. Jacks said there's no plans to install sprinklers in the dorm that burned this past weekend because it's scheduled for demolition next year.

Clemson has spent more than $1 million to install sprinkler systems in its three high-rise dormitories.

Ms. Jacks said the university may ask for federal assistance or ask the state to help pay for sprinkler systems on campus.

No schedule is in place to add sprinklers to the university's older buildings. "If we could afford it, we'd do it tomorrow," Ms. Jacks said.