Report of two fires started at Alpha Tau Omega

Photo credit to atogettysburg.com

Photo credit to atogettysburg.com

By Julia Sippel, Staff Writer

In the early morning of April 21, DPS came to the scene of two fires set at ATO.

According to an email from Executive Director of Public Safety Bill Lafferty, “[o]ne fire involved the lighting of toilet paper which was then placed on a windowsill of the chapter house and a separate fire involved the lighting of an exterior pine tree located adjacent to the chapter house.”

The State Police Fire Investigator who reported to the scene ruled the incident as “malicious and intentional” arson, defined by the federal government as “the willful or malicious burning or attempt to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling house, public building, motor vehicle or aircraft, or personal property of another kind.”

Junior Cole Flashenberg said, “Kyle Wigley, a senior, noticed the fire outside his bedroom window and went down into the kitchen to get water to put it out and noticed the flaming roll of toilet paper in the kitchen. Kyle and two other brothers got pots and pans full of water and successfully put the fire out.”

While there were no injuries nor any significant structural damage, the incident was deferred to the Gettysburg Police Department.

As of this publication, a representative from the Department informed The Gettysburgian that there were no updates to report on the case.

Greg Sachs, secretary and PR chair for Gettysburg’s Interfraternity Council, expressed the IFC’s concern regarding the fire. “The act of arson, as this incident has been ruled, is not only a criminal offense but also one of the ultimate acts of cowardice and a violation of the most basic principles that the IFC stands for.”

Sachs elaborated, “While the Interfraternity Council and its member chapters place our full faith in the Department of Public Safety and the Gettysburg Borough Police Department in their ongoing investigation, we would like to make it clear that arson should not and will not be tolerated in any of our chapter houses or anywhere else on campus.”

In light of this incident, many may wonder how to avoid having a similar event occur to them.

According to Bill Lafferty, “Students can always enhance their own safety by knowing who is in their spaces; especially the theme houses, chapter houses, and apartments. . . . Reporting suspicious activity or suspicious persons to DPS immediately is always advisable.”

More specifically in the case of fire and arson, Lafferty reported that “Every residential space the college owns is equipped with state-of-the-art fire detection and reporting systems, to include sprinkler suppression systems.”

Flashenberg said, “In terms of security, all doors and windows of the house remain locked and shut, and any flammable items are locked in the house.”

“The brothers were shaken and a bit angry when they found out, but it brought us closer together in the long run,” said Flashenberg.

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