On February 17th, 1996, a major fire broke out at Zeta Nu. Though the brothers at the house first attempted to put it out using fire extinguishers, it was soon apparent that the fire was spreading much too quickly. The fire department was then called. It was discovered later that the fire had spread quickly between the walls of the house.
Luckily, the Potsdam Fire Department is only a few doors down from 27 Main and they responded in record time to fight the blaze in freezing conditions. However, the fire destroyed much of the front top of the house and caused heavy smoke and water damage throughout the front of the structure. The fire took well over three hours to put out.
Fortunately, no members or guests of Zeta Nu were hurt; everyone was evacuated and was not harmed, including the pets.
However, one firefighter, Michael Corbett, did fall off our roof fighting the blaze and suffered major injuries. Our Alumni Association sent him a card, flowers, and some money for travel, but his injuries were quite severe and he will need much physical therapy before he can function normally again. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.
Zeta Nu salutes the Potsdam Fire Department, as well as the eight other local fire departments who responded to the call. Without them, their skill, and their bravery, nothing would have been left of our house.
For the period after the fire, the University graciously provided the members of Zeta Nu with on-campus housing (Congdon Hall, Third Floor).
Amazingly, much of the ZN memorabilia survived, including all photo albums, all composites (only two were water-damaged), the Secretary's ledgers, plaques, trophies, etc. A few brothers lost all their personal possessions and some had their possessions damaged by the fire, but fortunately, all were covered under their parents' homeowners insurance policies and were ultimately satisfied with their insurance settlements.
The entire Greek system was very sympathetic and helpful to us, as well, during our time of need and sorrow. Zeta Gamma Sigma, across the street, provided phone service and coffee during the night. Delta Zeta cooked us a superb dinner the day after. Many houses offered to allow our members to stay there until we found other arrangements. Many others still offered their help or sent sympathy cards. ZN is proud to be a part of such a caring Greek community.
The cause of the fire was later determined to be a chimney fire. Ironically, we had just had our chimney inspected two weeks earlier and it passed.
Fortunately for ZN, the house was fully insured against fire and we received a large fire insurance settlement. We had an architect draw up plans for the new house (as close as possible to the original house, with some improvements and some additional fire precautions!) and signed a contract with a construction company.
We moved into our new house in November, 1996. The brothers and alumni of Zeta Nu are glad to once again have our home at 27 Main Street!
(First two photos courtesy of Steve Gabriel '87 (OPiO))