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5-Alarm Fire Guts San Jose Fraternity House

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Flames erupt from the Kappa Sigma fraternity house in San Jose (CBS)

Flames erupt from the Kappa Sigma fraternity house in San Jose (CBS)

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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – A five-alarm fire destroyed a fraternity house near San Jose State University early Tuesday morning, displacing 28 people.

The blaze, which caused an estimated $1.7 million in damage, was reported at 3:21 a.m. at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house at 168 S. 11th Street.

San Jose fire Capt. Mary Gutierrez said the occupants were sleeping and were awakened by smoke alarms.

“Considering the severity, it was probably burning for a period of time before it woke them up,” Gutierrez said.

Firefighters entered the home and battled the blaze from inside for about 45 minutes, she said. When it began to look like the building might collapse, they moved outside and fought the fire defensively.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

The blaze was controlled around 6:10 a.m. One firefighter suffered second-degree burns to his hands and was taken to a hospital, but was later released.

The second floor was badly burned and there was severe water damage to the first floor, she said.

“It’s a complete loss,” Gutierrez said.

“I lost everything,” said Harminder Toor, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student.

Toor had moved off campus for the first time last week and had been busy shopping and setting up his new room. But today, along with the new furniture, he lost his suits, laptop, PlayStation, TV, new watch and iPhone.

“I put so much work in my room,” Toor said. “I know all these material goods I can get back, but it’s just a pain.”

Toor said he was sleeping and was awakened by the sound of people screaming and the smell of smoke.

He and his fellow fraternity members all escaped safely.

The American Red Cross was called to the scene to assist the 28 people who were displaced. Gutierrez said there was a summer session under way at the university.

She said it appears the fraternity house is owned by university alumni.

Firefighters from the city of Santa Clara and Santa Clara County manned San Jose fire stations as firefighters battled the blaze.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation, but Gutierrez said it is possible the blaze started in the laundry room.

(Copyright 2011 by CBSSan Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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