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GONZAGA UNIVERSITY NEWS RELEASE
Dale Goodwin, Director
Peter Tormey, Associate Director
|Fire at Kennedy Apartments Likely Arson-Caused|
The March 13 fire at the unoccupied Kennedy Apartments complex that had been under construction on the northwest portion of the Gonzaga University campus, at the site of the former Colonial Bowl, was likely caused by arson, fire investigators announced today (March 29).
Gonzaga President Rev. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., said the $10.3 million, 225-bed complex that was being built, which is insured, will be demolished as soon as possible.
Rev. Spitzer, S.J., responded today (March 29) to the news as follows:
“We are saddened to learn today that fire department investigators have determined that the March 13 fire to the Kennedy Apartments complex was intentionally set. We know of no one who would deliberately destroy university property. We will cooperate in every way to assist fire investigators and law enforcement officials to determine who is responsible for this heinous crime.
“In the meantime, we are removing debris from the Kennedy Apartments site and intend to begin re-construction on the complex by the first of May. We expect the apartments to be ready for occupancy for fall semester 2007.
“We are appreciative of the tremendous effort exerted by the Spokane Fire Department to contain the fire and keep our neighbors safe and surrounding structures fire-free. The order and execution of the firefighting effort, much of which I witnessed firsthand, was tremendous. We offer special thanks to the men and women who put themselves in harm's way to extinguish this fire. Because the apartment buildings were in a partial state of construction, the fire suppression system had not yet been activated. All building standards were being met.
“Meanwhile, we want to assure our students, prospective students, and their parents that we have sophisticated fire prevention initiatives in place. Our residence staff, safety and security departments conduct fire safety workshops and execute fire drills twice each year. We have fire alarm systems in every one of our residences. We have fire suppression systems in every residence hall and most of our apartment complexes. We are accelerating installation plans for fire suppression systems in the remaining apartments. We contract with several Spokane fire, safety and protection providers to coordinate a regular and aggressive testing program to ensure all systems are functioning in every building and in each detection location. Additionally, our security personnel, who are on duty 24 hours a day, are on site rapidly to answer each alarm, to collaborate with our staff and to secure the arrival of Spokane Fire Department responders. This same system will be in place, tried and tested, by the time residents move into Kennedy Apartments in fall 2007.
“The great blessing here is that no one was injured. We will work closely with our contractors, particularly Walker Construction with which we have had an excellent working relationship, to ensure that enhanced security measures are provided to all of our building sites in the months and years ahead.”
There were no injuries and all university offices and departments have remained open and operating without interruption since the blaze. Students and faculty were, for the most part, away from campus during the week of the fire, which was Gonzaga's spring break. Classes resumed on schedule Monday, March 20.
This facility had been filled with fire suppression sprinklers in every room on every floor – although the water had not yet been linked to those suppression sprinklers because the complex remained under construction and had not opened. The fire will not cause delays of any other university-planned construction projects, and will set GU back some 14 months on this project.
The one-city-block housing complex is bounded by Pearl and Ruby streets and Boone and Sharp avenues. The fire was estimated to have begun at approximately 12:05 a.m., Monday.
Gonzaga officials are assessing options to accommodate the 223 upper-division (juniors and seniors) students who had been assigned to the facility. These students, because they are juniors and seniors, would normally have lived off campus but both they and GU officials were excited at the opportunity to accommodate them with these on-campus units. Officials emphasized that the fire will have no impact on Gonzaga’s ability to accommodate all of the students in the fall 2006 incoming class of freshmen, who will live on campus, nor all of the other returning students who will live on campus.
The building is named in honor of Duff Kennedy, former chair of the Gonzaga University Board of Trustees, and his late wife Dorothy Kennedy of Seattle. The general contractor for the project was Walker Construction.
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