STUDENTS WONDER IF THEY LIVE IN `FIRETRAPS'
WITH SO MANY AT BLOOMSBURG UNIVERSITY LIVING IN
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
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.