Officials: SUNY Oneonta fire result of improper use of electric plug strip
Credit: (Photo Courtesy of Daniel J. Linek)
ONEONTA, N.Y. (WKTV) - A fire at Matteson Hall on the SUNY Oneonta campus that broke out just after 4 p.m. on Wednesday has been ruled accidental. According to investigators from the City of Oneonta Fire Department, the fire started as the result of a malfunction and the improper use of an electric plug strip in a suite bedroom on the third floor. The Otsego County Fire Coordinators and the Department of Homeland Security Emergency Services Office of Fire Prevention and Control assisted with the investigation. Inspectors determined Thursday morning that Matteson Hall is structurally sound, but that the building's electrical infrastructure and third floor fire alarms have been compromised as a result of the fire. Further evaluation and testing will be performed to know the extent of the damage to those systems, and to repair them. Officials say it is anticipated that this will take about 10 days. The clean-up process could begin as early as Thursday afternoon, with college staff working on the basement, first, and second floors. Disaster Clean-Up from Endwell, N.Y., has been retained to clean the third floor, where the damage was most severe. Cleaning work on the third floor is expected to take at least two weeks. The suite where the fire occurred, which consisted of three bedrooms, a bathroom and a common room, will need to be reconstructed completely. The college is working with the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York to coordinate a process and create timeline for the rehab, but there is no estimate at this time for how long Matteson Hall will be offline. The college will continue to offer shelter at Chase Gymnasium for students displaced by the fire. 177 students who lived in the dorm were re-located to Chase gymnasium Wednesday night, which was set up as a temporary shelter with the help of the American Red Cross. As of Thursday afternoon, only 20 of those displaced students were still using the gym for shelter, as others had found other housing. A plan for long-term housing is under development now, school officials said. The school is encouraging students who do not have cell phones to go to the Help Desk in Milne Library or to any campus office to use the phones to call parents and family members, adding that the latest information will also be posted on the college's website at that time. The Red Cross is in the gymnasium to assist students with meeting immediate needs and the Help Desk in Milne Library can provide chargers for cell phones and laptops. They also have laptops available for checking out to students, school officials stated. The Counseling Center is available for individual or group meetings with students; call (607) 436-3368 for information or to make an appointment. College officials are working on a plan to have Matteson residents escorted into the building as soon as possible to retrieve necessary items such as keys, books, laptops and cell phones. The building must be deemed safe before this can happen, and it is anticipated that this will not occur until Friday. In the meantime, new ID cards are being provided at the Hunt Union to students who need them. Mutual aid was received from West Oneonta, Otego, Laurens, Franklin, Worcester, Sidney and Treadwell Fire Departments. Assistance was also provided by University Police, the Otsego County Office of Emergency Services and the New York State Department of Homeland Security (Office of Fire Prevention and Control).