NORMAN — Chris Caldwell, a junior at the University of Oklahoma and fraternity member of Beta Theta Pi, said when he first saw the police, lights and people outside the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority Tuesday night, he thought there was a bad car wreck, but then he saw the smoke.
“It was scary, with my frat right next door,” Caldwell said. “And it was really sad seeing all the girls come out of their house.”
Caldwell said the Greek community immediately came together, and Alpha Gamma Delta sorority members he knew stayed at Kappa Alpha Theta and Chi Omega sororities.
“Right away, I saw friends and fellow frat and sorority members put prayers for AGD on Twitter,” he said.
OU spokeswoman Catherine Bishop said the university immediately accounted for all the women Tuesday night and verified that there were no injuries. All of the students and the chapter housemother safely exited the house after 11 p.m. Tuesday.
“Thankfully, all of the women who were living in the facility are safe and accounted for. The international organization is working with our collegiate members, volunteers and campus professionals to support the chapter during this challenging time,” said Jill Harter, director of communications and marketing at Alpha Gamma Delta International Headquarters, via email.
Early indications are that the Alpha Gamma Delta house will not be livable for the remainder of the spring semester, Bishop said, and in an effort to assist displaced students, President David L. Boren has directed the following services and resources be made available to them:
· Housing and Food Services will provide students on-campus living options if they desire. Interested students are encouraged to call Jennifer Doughty in housing at 325-2511.
· Couch Restaurants has been made available to all live-in Alpha Gamma Delta women. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be available to these students through Sunday at no cost.
· All Norman campus deans have been notified and provided a letter outlining the situation, so they assist students who may miss or anticipate missing classes due to the event.
· Counseling services, at 325-7000, will accommodate any student who needs to speak with someone about her experience.
· Goddard Health Center will accommodate these students, even without an appointment. Any student who lost her prescription(s) in the fire may contact the pharmacy at 325-5156 for assistance.
· The Sooner One Card office is providing free replacement identification cards for any student who lost her card in the fire.
Several Alpha Gamma Delta sorority members, who asked not to be named, said the event was scary and that Wednesday had been rough trying to cope, but the sorority had received a lot of community support.
Anyone who would like to make a donation to help the women of Alpha Gamma Delta can do so at the Sooners Helping Sooners webpage, http://www.ou.edu/give/shs.html.
For more information or questions about Sooners Helping Sooners, email Kristen Partridge, director of student life, at email@example.com.
The Norman Fire Marshal’s office will continue to investigate the Tuesday night fire at the house, 930 Chautauqua Ave. No cause has been determined yet.
Deputy Chief Jim Bailey said investigators are combing through the damaged three-story building.
Construction crews had been working on the house over the holidays and continued to work this week.
The preliminary damage estimate to the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house could top $750,000, Norman fire officials said Wednesday.
Bailey said it appeared the fire was contained to the building’s attic. Firefighters fought the blaze from the inside, thus putting less water on the structure.
“The guys were able to make an offensive attack and extinguished it from the inside the building,” he said. “Had he not done that, it could have resulted in more water damage.”
The building, added on to many times, had working smoke detectors and an alarm that sounded.
Seven fire stations and 41 firefighters responded to the fire, along with Norman police and EMSStat paramedics.
According to Norman police, their response to the fire included 11 Norman officers and three OUPD officers. Norman MPO Ryan Bruehl and Officer Joshua Yager made initial entry to ensure everyone was out after hearing that people might be inside.
“(This is) yet another great example of how our departments’ continued teamwork when it counts does make a difference,” said Lt. Brent Barbour in an email to Norman Fire Department. “Thanks for your assistance.”
Executive Editor Andy Rieger and Transcript
Staff Writers Katherine Parker and Jessica Bruha contributed to this story.
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