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Power Strip to Blame for SUNY Oneonta Fire (PHOTO GALLERY, VIDEO)

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Investigators from the City of Oneonta Fire Department deemed that the fire that caused damage to Matteson Hall on the SUNY Oneonta campus 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.

“The documentation of that investigation continues, however the building has been released back to SUNY Oneonta and the Dorm Authority,” Oneonta Fire Chief Patrick Pidgeon said. “The cause of the fire has been determined to be accidental and of electrical nature.”

Inspectors determined that Matteson Hall is structurally sound, but the building’s electrical infrastructure and third-floor fire alarms have been compromised, according to a SUNY Oneonta press release.

Testing will be be performed to know the extend of the damage to those systems. It is anticipated the process will take about 10 days.

“We had fire coming out of the third floor windows,” Pidgeon said. “There were no rescues made and no injuries. Damage was limited to one suite which has three bedrooms. The entire dorm is shut down. There was significant smoke and heat damage to the entire third floor.”

SUNY Oneonta has chosen to close the third floor of Matteson Hall for the rest of the spring semester. The floor’s 56 residents will be moved to other residence halls on campus. It is unknown for how long the other floors of the building will be closed.

The temporary shelter at Chase Gymnasium will likely be shut down by the end of the day Thursday. Displaced students will be housed at the Holiday Inn in Oneonta, and Oneonta Public Transport has agreed to extend a bus route to provide transportation from the hotel to campus free of charge.

The suite where the fire occurred will need to be reconstructed completely, and the college is working with the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York to coordinate a process and develop a timeline.

College officials are working on a plan to have Matteson residents escorted into the building as soon as possible to retrieve necessary items. The college anticipates this to happen around 2 p.m. Friday. It has e-mailed students to inform them when they can retrieve their belongings.

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The Oneonta Fire Department, University Police and other emergency personnel responded to a structure fire that started inside a dorm room on the SUNY Oneonta campus around 4 p.m. Wednesday.

No one was injured in the blaze.

SUNY Oneonta president Nancy Kleniewski thanked emergency services personnel who responded to the fire in a statement Thursday morning.

“We’re thankful that no one was injured by yesterday’s fire at Matteson Hall. The Oneonta Fire Department and first responders from West Oneonta, Otego, Worcester, Franklin and Sidney that came to the college’s aid did a fantastic job bringing the situation under control quickly, and helping us to ensure the safety of the building’s 177 residents,” she said. “The outpouring of support offered by SUNY Oneonta staff and students, Sodexo, the Red Cross, and other volunteers has been tremendous. The college is grateful to be a part of such a caring community.

“I know that Matteson’s residents are eager to recover their personal belongings and get back to their normal routines,” Kleniewski added. “We have begun assessing the damage to the building and will start the process of making repairs and cleaning up as soon as possible. In the meantime, the college will continue to provide for the students and staff who have been displaced from their homes as a result of the fire.”

The fire started just before 4 p.m. inside Matteson Hall. The college issued two updates during the firefighting effort via its Facebook page. The first came at 4:45 p.m. and reads:

University Police and other emergency services personnel responded to several fire alarms at Matteson Hall around 4 p.m. At this time, there are no known injuries. The building has been evacuated. According to preliminary accounts from those at the scene, the fire started and appears to have been contained in a suite on the third floor at the north end of the building. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

The second update came at 5 p.m.:

University Police report that the fire at Matteson Hall has been extinguished. The first sweep of the building revealed no injuries. Based on preliminary reports and interviews with Matteson residents, the college believes all residents have been accounted for at this time. A second sweep of the building is being conducted now. The college has begun working to find short-term alternative housing for students residing in Matteson Hall, which will be closed this evening. The New York State Office of Fire Prevention has been contacted and has send a representative.

The official release from the university Wednesday evening stated that smoke damage was significant on the third floor. Other areas of the building were less affected.

Matteson Hall was evacuated and has been secured by the University Police. The college has set up shelter for the 177 Matteson Hall residents at the Chase Gymnasium and a plan is in place to provide food, clothing, toiletries and computers to them.

The academic schedule of the college has not been affected. Classes will be in session as scheduled.

Courtesy: Daniel Linek, “The State Times” SUNY Oneonta
Courtesy: Daniel Linek, “The State Times” SUNY Oneonta
Courtesy: Daniel Linek, “The State Times” SUNY Oneonta
Courtesy: Daniel Linek, “The State Times” SUNY Oneonta
Courtesy: Daniel Linek, “The State Times” SUNY Oneonta
Courtesy: Daniel Linek, “The State Times” SUNY Oneonta
Courtesy: Daniel Linek, “The State Times” SUNY Oneonta
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