Rolling Green fire victim died from smoke inhalation, officials confirm

By Chelsie Field

Evan Sahagian/Collegian

Officials have confirmed that University of Massachusetts student James “Jake” Hoffman died from smoke inhalation in the Jan. 21 fire at the Rolling Green apartment complex, according to

Amherst Fire Chief W. Tim Nelson told MassLive that the cause of the fire, which began on the second floor of Hoffman’s unit and damaged nine other units, remains under investigation by state officials.

Hoffman, 21, was to graduate this spring from UMass’ hospitality and tourism management department. He was also involved with numerous campus organizations, including serving as vice president of the Jewish Student Union and as a member with MESIBA team and the Club Managers Association of America. Though not biologically Jewish, Hoffman was looking to convert before his death.

About 900 people attended Hoffman’s funeral in late January at St. James Church in Stoughton following the second-largest wake held at Farley Funeral Home the night prior. He leaves behind older sister Nichole Hoffman, younger brother Riordan Hoffman, parents David and Anne Hoffman, all of Stoughton. Hoffman is also survived by many extended family members, including over 30 cousins.

Friends of Hoffman, including those in the department of hospitality and tourism management, have been trying to set up a scholarship in Hoffman’s name, as well as procure a University diploma for Hoffman’s family in addition to leaving an empty seat at graduation ceremonies.

More than 30 people – including 22 UMass students – were displaced by the early-morning blaze, which was reported around 4:45 a.m. No other injuries were reported.

Nelson told MassLive that the cause of the fire may never be known, and that investigators are still narrowing down possible causes.
Chelsie Field can be reached at [email protected]