Apartment fire changes perspectives, still under investigation by the State Fire Marshal

The fire displaced 21 students

By Jon Decker, Collegian Correspondent

On Sunday, April 29, a fire broke out at 285 Main Street, just across the street from the historical Emily Dickinson house. The fire displaced 21 residents, mostly seniors at the University of Massachusetts, and left one man with serious injuries.

In addition to a local investigation, the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal is looking into the origin of the fire, which has yet to be determined. According to Jennifer Mieth, public information officer for the office of the State Fire Marshal, not every fire in the state requires their involvement, and the agency utilizes “specially trained” Massachusetts state police officers to aid local departments in the investigation.

Megan Kacenski, Sarah Fox and Allison Micka are three UMass students who called 285 Main Street home. For them, the fire came just two weeks before graduation.

“It was a hell of an experience to go through,” Kacenski said, describing the immediate aftermath of the fire. “It hasn’t been a week yet, since this has all happened. It feels like it’s been months. These days have just been incredibly long.”

But despite the long days, the University’s response has been swift, according to Fox.

“The UMass Dean of Students emailed all of us around, I want to say, 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. I called him around eight in the morning, and he was already calling all the different resources on campus,” Fox said.

Eighteen students were given housing in North Apartments on campus. As for Kacenski, Fox and Allison, they were able to get rooms in their sorority house, Sigma Delta Tau. Of the 21 residents, Kacenski, Fox and Micka are the only members of Greek life. Luckily for them, there were three open rooms and three parking spaces.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Micka said.

In addition to the help from the University and Sigma Delta Tau, donations were made to the displaced residents. A collection of these donated items sat in the SDT living room.

The fire has also brought a shift in perspective to these three students.

“For me in particular, it kind of makes you realize that material items are not important,” Kacenski said, “The only thing that isn’t replaceable is us; everything else is replaceable.”

When asked about more details and rumors surrounding the origins of the fire, all three students declined to comment, stating that the investigation is still underway. Updates on the investigation will be shared with the Collegian via the state fire marshal public affairs office.

Jon Decker can be reached at [email protected]