ORL assists student post-fire

A raging fire sparked earlier this month is under investigation after it left a Marquette student homeless and shut down a popular local business.

Matthew Olson, a senior in the College of Engineering, was made homeless after the four-alarm inferno engulfed his apartment above Pizza Man, 1800 E. North Ave, on Jan. 19. About 150 firefighters were called to the scene, and 10 apartments were destroyed.

Multiple state and federal agencies have ruled the blaze an arson. Currently, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for starting the fire.

“We have had strong cooperation from our law enforcement partners to investigate the Pizza Man fire,” said Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn in a press release. “Now we need the public’s cooperation to provide information on who is responsible for setting it.”

The building also housed several other Milwaukee businesses, including Grecian Delight restaurant, Black and White Café and nightclub Cush Lounge. The estimated loss of the fire is valued at $3 million.

Although the building was a total loss after the fire, there were no fatalities. Three firefighters were injured in the blaze.

On the night of the fire, Olson was close to campus. He discovered his apartment had been destroyed after his mother called him to make sure he was out of harm’s way.

Helping hands

After the fire, the Marquette community took action to help Olson recover from the loss. According to Olson’s letter of thanks, university officials have donated textbooks, a parking pass, a meal plan and an Alumni Memorial Union gift card.

In an e-mail to the Tribune, Olson forwarded the letter he sent to the university, but he did not respond to interview requests.

According to Jeananne Bargholz, assistant to the dean of students, the university tries to do everything it can to ease the loss a student experiences in an apartment fire.

“It’s what we do,” Bargholz said. “We care about the quality of life our students have. And when that is taken away from them, we want to help.”

Stacie Dooley, associate dean of residence life for university apartments and off-campus student services, said this isn’t the first time a fire has caused the university to take action for students.

“It has happened often enough so we have developed a plan in place to make sure a student gets what they need while taking away as little academic time as possible,” Dooley said.

When any student is displaced, Dooley said the first thing the university offers is housing. According to Dooley, Olson already had living arrangements in place and didn’t need temporary university housing.

Although Olson did not need housing, the Office of Student Development and the Office of Residence Life helped make other arrangements to ensure he was taken care of.

“If there has been a situation with off-campus housing, we make every effort to accommodate them in their time of need,” Dooley said.

When a student has been displaced, the university works to get the student new books, a meal plan and an AMU gift card for any incidentals like clothing from the Marquette Spirit Shop, Dooley said.

The university also helps students when situations other than fire cause them to be displaced — such as a roof caving in on an apartment building or a water main break, Dooley said.