October 08, 2004

No injuries reported in University Hall fire

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. - - Two Southern Illinois University Carbondale students are facing felony charges in the wake of an early morning fire today (Friday, Oct. 8) in a residence hall.

There were no injuries among the approximately 300 students who live in University Hall, a four - story facility at 1101 S. Wall St. that the University purchased earlier this year.

The fire started in one of the building's two elevators, and while the blaze was contained to the elevator, smoke spread throughout the third and fourth floors. The smoke immediately activated the building's alarm system, alerting residents and the Carbondale fire and police departments and SIUC Department of Public Safety. Emergency personnel were on the scene within minutes of the 4:02 a.m. alarm.

University Hall residents evacuated the building quickly, and returned to their rooms by about 5:30 a.m.

Police arrested two students who live in the building on suspicion of aggravated arson. They are Robert C. Black, a 20-year-old freshman from Jacksonville, and Jeffrey T. Burk, an 18-year-old freshman from Willowbrook. SIUC plans to suspend both students today. They will have a hearing within the next two days, but will not be allowed to return to the hall unless escorted by campus police officers.

"The alarm system worked the way it is supposed to and the students responded to the alarm they way they are supposed to, so kudos to them," said Larry H. Dietz, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management.

Todd D. Sigler, director of SIUC's Department of Public Safety, said fire department officials were "very complimentary of the housing staff and the students for their response to the situation."

University Housing stages a 6 a.m. fire drill in each residence hall within two to three weeks of the beginning of each semester - though residents do not know in advance exactly when the drill will take place.

SIUC plans to install sprinklers in all of its residence halls before the deadline in 2013.