As fraternity men ran shouting through the halls to awaken their sleeping brothers, fire swept through the Sigma Chi fraternity house near the University of Southern California early this morning, destroying much of one wing of the building on Fraternity Row.
Red Cross spokesman Ralph Wright said it was “definitely very lucky” that only three people were injured in the 2:54 a.m. blaze--two fraternity members and a young woman visiting the house, all of whom suffered minor smoke inhalation and were treated at the scene.
Smoke detectors sounded an alarm but “some people slept through them,” Wright said. So fraternity brothers raced up and down smoke-filled hallways, he said, pounding on doors to evacuate the building.
Fire officials said that by the time 20 Los Angeles City fire companies arrived at the blazing building, all 58 students had escaped--at least one of them reportedly by leaping from a second-floor window.
Investigators found the fire was caused by an electrical problem, fire spokesman Jim Wells said. It caused an estimated $450,000 damage.
The students took refuge at fraternities and sororities along the street. “Everyone was real nice to them, got them blankets,” junior Jill Wardrup of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority said. “They were real shook up.”
The fire, which was extinguished in 44 minutes, gutted an upper floor in the residential wing of the L-shaped building, and destroyed half of the floor below it, said USC spokesman Wayne Sage, who added that the school is looking for housing for the young men.