An early-morning fraternity fire at Nebraska Wesleyan University killed one person and critically injured three others fifteen years ago today.
Lincoln firefighters said the blaze at the three-story Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house started about 4 a.m.
The 78-year-old house, the second-oldest building on the campus in north-central Lincoln, was owned by the fraternity and was on the National Register of Historic Places.
One student, a 19-year-old sophomore from Ord, Nebraska, died from smoke inhalation, and three other fraternity members were critically injured.
The blaze occurred on the second night of "activation," or initiation ceremonies, for 16 new fraternity members. Thirty-nine people were in the house when the fire was reported.
Firefighters broke down at least three bedroom doors to reach some fraternity members.
The fraternity sat on private property, across the street from the university's field house. Fraternity members, along with family members and fraternity alumni, took refuge in the field house, where grief counselors and Red Cross personnel were available.
Sara Olson, spokeswoman for the university, said each room in the house was equipped with a smoke detector.
But the house was not fitted with a fire sprinkler system, said interim Lincoln Fire Chief Dan Wright. He said such a system would not have been legally required in such an old structure.
Investigators determined the fire started in a room of one of the frat members but couldn’t figure out the cause because of damage.