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STUDENTS WONDER IF THEY LIVE IN `FIRETRAPS'
WITH SO MANY AT BLOOMSBURG UNIVERSITY LIVING IN
OFF-CAMPUS HOUSING,
OVERWHELMING CONCERN
ARISES TO PREVENT ANOTHER TRAGEDY

By TOM OBRZUT JR.; Times Leader Staff Writer

Sunday, October 23, 1994     Page: 1A

BLOOMSBURG -- A Friday morning fraternity-house fire that killed five people, including Joe Selena of Wyoming, has some Bloomsburg University students questioning the safety of their own off-campus homes.
    Shelley Mohr, 21, of Bloomsburg said Saturday her Lightstreet Road residence is a "firetrap."
    "They charge outrageous prices to have students live in these houses," she said. "All of my roommates' relatives called and they all had something to say about the housing being unsafe."
    Nicole Franks, 21, of Philadelphia said the school needs to take a more active role in off-campus housing to alleviate students' fears.
    "The university has no control," said Franks, who lives in a Sesame Street residence that houses about 20 people. "They have no say and keep themselves very apart from it. That, in essence, endangers us more."
    University spokesman Mark Lloyd said the university does not have enforcement power to correct code violations in off-campus houses. That duty falls to Bloomsburg's code enforcement officer Chuck Felker, who could not be reached for comment Saturday.
    "We work in cooperation to identify problems and work with the town to resolve those problems," Lloyd said. "The university doesn't have the authority to inspect properties."
    That's the problem, Franks said. Last year, she lived in a Lightstreet Road home in which light switches sparked and fuses blew when residents turned on lights.
    She was reminded of that home Saturday, one day after a fire ripped through the Beta Sigma Delta fraternity house at Eyer and Iron streets. Authorities said another four people escaped from the house uninjured.
    Lloyd said the Beta Sigma Delta house passed a fire safety inspection earlier this year.
    Of the university's 5,729 full-time undergraduate students, more than 2,500 live in campus dormitories. Lloyd said freshmen students under 21 are required to live in dormitories.
    For students who choose to live off-campus, the university provides a brochure to educate them on what to look for, Lloyd said. The university also has an off-campus housing officer to resolve student-landlord issues.
    Franks' Sesame Street housemate, Linda Waldron, 21, of New Providence, N.J., said she knows of homes without smoke detectors where wires are exposed and students live in attics where there are no exits.
    Waldron said she thinks some landlords don't want to put a lot of money into fraternity or sorority homes because the residents "have parties and mess up the houses."
    Landlord Lon Edmonds of Bloomsburg disagrees with Waldron. He says if you treat people with respect and give them what they deserve, they give you back what you deserve.
    "We put money into our rental units and people take care of them," he said. Edmonds owns nine rental properties that are rented to students in Bloomsburg.
    Even before Friday's fire, Samantha Viard, 21, of Williamsport, said she was concerned about living in a "deathtrap." But her home on Sesame Street has four smoke detectors, windows in every bedroom and two fire exits.
    "We're more prepared," she said.
    Lloyd said the university encourages students to make sure an apartment has smoke detectors before moving in. The school also provides a list of rental units that are available. To make the list, a landlord must have the unit inspected and not engage in discriminatory practices, Lloyd said.
    TIMES LEADER PHOTOS/PETE G. WILCOX
    Red roses are wedged between a latched garage door at the site of Friday morning's deadly fire in Bloomsburg. Bloomsburg University students gather outside the Chi Sigma Rho sorority house Saturday morning during a memorial service for the five people killed in the blaze.
   
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