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Investigators Rule Out Arson In SJSU Frat House Fire

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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) — San Jose fire investigators were not able to determine the cause of a blaze that destroyed a fraternity house near San Jose State University on Tuesday, but they have ruled out arson, a fire spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The five-alarm fire at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house, located at 168 S. 11th St., caused an estimated $1.7 million in damage and displaced 28 students.

Residents were stirred awake around 3:20 a.m. by sounds of screaming and the smell of smoke.

San Jose fire Capt. Mary Gutierrez said firefighters entered the home and battled the blaze from inside for about 45 minutes. When it began to look like the building might collapse, they moved outside and fought the fire defensively.

The blaze was controlled around 6:10 a.m. One firefighter was treated at a hospital for second-degree burns to his hands.

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

The damage was so extensive that it was hard to determine the origin of the fire, Gutierrez said, although some students had reported the blaze started in the laundry room.

She said the fire department has completed its investigation into the fire and determined it was not arson. The university alumnus who owns the fraternity house can hire a private investigator or have the insurance company conduct a separate investigation, Gutierrez said.

All of the fraternity members managed to escape safely, but a number left behind valuable belongings.

The American Red Cross provided assistance, and neighboring fraternity houses have offered temporary housing assistance to the displaced residents.

San Jose State University officials have set up a relief fund to help them recover. To donate to the relief fund online, visit http://www.sjsu.edu/advancement/giving/.

Click “Give: Your Support Counts,” and in the “Other Purpose” section enter “Student Emergency Fund-Kappa Sigma.”

Checks can be sent to the Tower Foundation of San Jose State University at 1 Washington Square, San Jose, CA 95192-0183.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San 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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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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