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January 18, 2013

SUNY Oneonta seeking home for students after fire

SUNY Oneonta officials worked Thursday on short- and long-term accommodations for 175 residents of Matteson Hall displaced by a fire the previous day that officials ruled was electrical and accidental in origin.

Eighteen students stayed Wednesday night in a shelter set up in the college’s Chase Gymnasium, officials at the State University College at Oneonta said, but plans were developing Thursday to close the gym and lodge students at the Holiday Inn in Oneonta.

Beginning Thursday night, a SUNY Oneonta media release said, the college will pay for displaced students to stay at the hotel, and Oneonta Public Transport agreed to extend a bus route to provide free transportation between the hotel and campus. The college, which has set up a fund to help victims of the fire, said 174 students lived in the hall with one residence director, a figure revised from 177 residents stated previously.

“We’re thankful that no one was injured by yesterday’s fire at Matteson Hall,” SUNY Oneonta President Nancy Kleniewski said in a statement to the campus community Thursday.

The blaze started in a malfunctioning electrical power strip that was improperly located near “soft goods,’’ such as bedding, Oneonta fire officials said. About 60 firefighters from multiple departments responded to a general call for assistance.

The fire broke out at about 4 p.m. in a bedroom of a suite on the third-floor Wednesday, the first day of the spring semester. SUNY Oneonta has closed the third floor of Matteson Hall for the semester and is working on relocating the floor’s 56 residents to other dormitories, officials said.

The college’s custodial staff will be working to clean Matteson Hall, officials said, and the other floors will be closed for an undetermined period.

Several students who took shelter in the college Chase Gym on Thursday said they thought the alarm was a fire drill. They said they were coping with frustration, boredom and depression, and they wondered aloud when they could collect personal belongings, if their dormitory would re-open and the fate of their academics.

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