A vacant Tulane fraternity house was damaged in a fire early Friday morning, authorities said, leaving a newly scorched structure directly next door to an empty lot on Broadway Street where a frat house that burned last October was recently torn down.
The former Sigma Alpha Mu house at 712 Broadway caught fire around 1 a.m. July 20, said Tulane University spokesman Michael Strecker. The building was unoccupied and undergoing renovations, so there were no injuries, Strecker said. He referred questions about the cause of the fire to the New Orleans Fire Department, which did not have information on the investigation readily available Tuesday afternoon.
The Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity has been suspended for several years, Strecker said. The house has been vacant, so no one would have been coming and going that time of night, he said. The building is owned by the alumni association of another fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, according to online property records.
The owner of the Campus Connection college store, Dave Cariello, said he lives above his shop and heard the sirens that morning. Fires have “been such a common occurrence lately,” he said, that he figured something was burning, so he opened a window, smelled the smoke, and walked downstairs to see what was on fire.
“It didn’t seem to be that big of a house fire,” said Cariello, who is also known for his blogging at canalstreetchronicles.com. “There weren’t flames coming out of the windows, but there was a lot of smoke in the air.”
The fire seemed to be concentrated in the rear of the house on the top floor, but firefighters appeared to have it under control, he said. Cariello, a 2003 Tulane graduate, said he knew the house as the Sammy House (the fraternity’s nickname), but had lost track of which frat was living there or scheduled to.
“It’s constant change as far as houses are concerned,” Cariello said. “It just seems like when one fraternity moves out, another one moves in.”
The Sammy House stands next to the lot the Zeta Psi house occupied until just a few days ago, when it was torn down after burning during a Halloween party last fall. The Zeta Psi house is scheduled to be rebuilt to resemble its former outer appearance.