On Sept. 3, police and firefighters were called to 68 Court Street, where they found a large brush pile near the road that had been set ablaze, creating a fire which could be seen up and down Court Street.
The Geneseo Volunteer Fire Department received a call at 1:36 a.m. alerting them of the blaze. Chief Frank Manzo said that the fire was contained to the area immediately near the road and kept away from the house. He also stated that 150 gallons of water were used to put out the blaze, and that the entire incident took 30 minutes to resolve.
68 Court is the chapter house of the Sigma Gamma Phi sorority, also known as Arethusa. Seven sisters currently live in the house. Senior Sunny Lecce, an elementary education major, was one of the three women at home when the fire occurred. "It all happened so fast," she said. "I had never seen a fire that big before in my life. We were afraid that it would spread to the trees and start the house on fire."
Lecce recounted how another resident, Megan Bengyak, had rushed into the house around 1:30 a.m., screaming that there was a fire outside. "We immediately grabbed every bucket we could and filled it with water to try and put it out," Lecce said.
None of the residents called 911. An unknown bystander who had seen the fire from the street contacted emergency services before the residents of the house became aware of the situation.
"We currently do not believe that any of the residents of 68 Court had any involvement in causing the fire," Manzo said. "Most likely some passerby threw a lit cigarette without thinking, and it smoldered in the brush pile for hours before becoming an actual fire." He also cautioned all students against mixing alcohol and fire.
"Everyone likes bonfires, but they can be very dangerous," he said. "Most weekends we have a lot of intoxicated people walking around. If a fire were ever to get close to a structure, or if someone while intoxicated were to fall into a fire, those would be very serious situations."
Manzo also referenced an incident on Sept. 5 at 19 Franklin St., where mulch was set on fire, most likely by another ill-tossed cigarette, and spread to the porch of the residence. "That was another near-miss situation. If no one had noticed the smoke, they could've lost that porch."
Lecce said the landlord had piled the large brush heap near the street earlier that day, in expectation that it would be picked up the next morning.