Authorities classify small Quad fires as arson

Jill Martin

The two fires that were set in Sheehan and Sullivan Halls this past weekend are now being officially classified as arson by the Radnor Police Department.

Sheehan residents remained outside for an hour and 45 minutes Saturday morning as the Bryn Mawr Fire Department, the Radnor Police Department and the Department of Public Safety conducted an investigation inside.

The investigators took fingerprints and photographs while assessing the damage to the building.

The fire was set in the first floor bathroom using newspapers at approximately 2:30 a.m.

Sheehan resident Michael Werner found the fire as he walked downstairs from the second floor to use the restroom. He promptly put the fire out with a fire extinguisher.

Public Safety Senior Investigator Jim Conway said, “He did a nice job putting out the fire. He notified us, but also extinguished the fire, which we do not ask students to do.”

The fire in Sullivan Hall was found and put out quickly before the fire alarm automatically sounded.

Because arson is considered a felony, the person or persons responsible for the fires in each of the buildings will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and may face between five and 10 years in prison.

Conway said, “According to the Pennsylvania Crimes Code and Vehicle Law Handbook, the sentence could include arson, causing or risking catastrophe and criminal mischief.”

In addition to these sanctions, the guilty parties will also receive a $500 fine.

Contrary to popular belief, the residents of each of the halls will not receive any fines to be split among the entire hall for the fires.

Conway indicated that there is no evidence linking the two fires at this time.

He said, “We spoke to people nearby the incident but have not yet identified anyone who may have done it.”

Drowsy-eyed Quad residents that emptied Sheehan Hall on Saturday morning did not suspect the alarm that awoke them was the indication of a fire.

Sheehan resident Abby Smagula said, “Fire alarms are being pulled all the time, so you never think there is actually a fire. I was shocked when I learned that the bathroom of the floor above me was on fire.”

Resident Assistant Barry Rickert found the fire in Sullivan and was able to put it out and call Public Safety.

“Whoever is responsible should think about how they jeopardized the safety of both the residents in the buildings and the emergency personnel that responded to the scene,” Rickert said. In addition, events like these cause hostile relations between Villanova and the surrounding community.”

Although there have been many fire alarms in the Quad recently, Conway said that there has not been an unusually high rate of false alarms or fires during this academic year. In Sheehan Hall this year, for example, there have been five false alarms, which, according to Public Safety, is not a high amount. Since Sept. 1, there have been 24 false alarms on the entire campus.

Anyone with information regarding the fires is encouraged to call the anonymous hotline available.

Conway said, “We ask anyone with any information to notify us because these crimes are of such a serious nature.”

To call the hotline, dial (610) 519-6999. The call cannot be traced back to any phone, and anonymity is assured to anyone with information.

Conway stressed the importance of continuing to go outside when there is a fire alarm.

He said, “The problem with the false alarms is that a crying wolf phenomenon begins to occur. People begin to get lax in going outside, but it is important to do so when there is a fire alarm. Otherwise, one day someone will get hurt.”