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Arnold investigates why SUNY Purchase dorms don’t have latest firefighting equipment

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PURCHASE, N.Y. — Nic Inglese and David Foley were roommates at SUNY Purchase in Westchester County.

On the night of Sept. 4, they were getting ready to watch the Mets game when they smelled smoke.

“I didn’t even know there was a fire going on until like the whole room filled with smoke,” Foley said.

Firefighters from Purchase and surrounding communities who responded to the four-alarm blaze say it was a fast moving fire. Investigators believe it began inside one of the dorms’ kitchens.

More than 100 students were evacuated from their dorm.

The roommates were on the second floor.

“Another couple of seconds and it would have been very difficult to get out,” Inglese said.

He recalled glass popping as they escaped.


“When we were going down the stairs,” Inglese said, “literally the whole apartment under us was on fire. Glass was popping. It was terrible.”

Fortunately, no one was killed or seriously injured. Foley said he probably lost $10,000 worth of items.

“I lost all my medical equipment. I have Cystic Fibrosis and I need to do treatments twice a day and I lost that," he said.

A PIX11 Investigation finds the students were very lucky.

The SUNY Purchase dormitories they lived in that caught fire did not have the latest in fire fighting equipment and many of the students were never told that, a violation of New York State law.

Their dormitory is one of the oldest on the campus and was not equipped with sprinklers, which surprised many of the students and their parents.

Betsy Aldredge, a SUNY Purchase spokesperson, said “the building was built in the early 1980’s at a time when sprinklers were not required. The building code has since been changed, but the older dorms were grandfathered in.”

This is the third dormitory fire at SUNY Purchase.

“There was a fire in 2004 and 2009 at Purchase where there were no sprinklers and 280 people were displaced," Foley said. "And what, they didn’t think to put in sprinklers yet? The whole thing makes me mad.”

When asked about the lack of sprinklers, spokeswoman Aldredge said, "you know, it’s just the way it is. We would love to do it if we had unlimited funds. But right now that’s something we’re looking at. As new buildings are built, as buildings are renovated, sprinklers are put in.”

In 2013, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law that requires colleges to notify their students as to whether their dormitories are equipped with sprinkler systems.

But PIX11 Investigates has learned that SUNY Purchase has not been obeying that law.

Inglese said he had no idea there were no sprinklers in his dorm.

“No one notified us at all of no sprinklers." he said.

He'd assumed there were sprinklers and was surprised to learn there weren’t.

“Before we moved in, they should have notified us and they didn’t. If there were sprinklers, all our stuff would have been saved," Foley said. "We would still be living in the apartment.”

Aldrege said the campus was "not advised" about the law mandating that colleges tell their students about the fire fighting equipment -- or lack thereof.

“We were not advised about the law regarding sprinkler notification, which was enacted in 2013," Aldredge said. "Now that we are aware, the matters has been rectified. Notice now appears on the website."