August 19, 2009

University Housing assists SIUE in wake of fire

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Students displaced by a fire at a Southern Illinois University Edwardsville apartment complex will have beds to sleep on thanks to the generosity and Saluki spirit of University Housing at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

A lightning strike in the very early morning hours Monday, Aug. 17, set off a large blaze that gutted an eight-unit residential building in the Cougar Village Apartment Complex at SIUE. Preliminary estimates set the damage at $1 million for 529 Cougar Village.

The storm had already knocked out power in the building. Fortunately, only two students lived in the building at the time and they got out safely. No injuries resulted from the fire but unfortunately, 30 students assigned to live there this fall won’t be able to. They have gotten room assignments elsewhere in the apartment complex. However, SIUE lost 32 beds just as students are arriving for the new school year.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, director of University Housing at SIUC, praised the quick thinking of police officers and procedures in place at SIUE’s University Housing program for assuring no one was hurt, but she said they recognized there was still significant property loss. Payne-Kirchmeier contacted Michael Schultz, SIUE’s housing director, to offer assistance.

“Obviously, our thoughts go out to the SIUE community at this time so I offered our assistance,” Payne-Kirchmeier said. Schultz told Payne-Kirchmeier they could really use mattresses to replace those lost in the fire.

“Our staff has gathered the supplies, and as we speak, Scott Taylor of SIUC University Housing and his team are assisting SIUE with loading 50 new mattresses on a truck so that the students at our sister campus have mattresses on which to sleep when they begin arriving on SIUE’s campus tomorrow,” Payne-Kirchmeier said Wednesday morning.

“In my opinion, it only makes sense that we do this,” she added. “Just as University Housing responded by providing food and shelter to many community members and staff during the May 8 derecho and aftermath, SIUC University Housing feels it is just as important to support our sister campus in Edwardsville as they work to overcome a significant challenge.”