Last semester, SNHU witnessed an electrical fire in Greeley Hall that left the apartment building uninhabitable. While the fire displaced all its residents, the efforts made by the SNHU community helped the transition process.
Like most incidents, this one did not go without its witnesses. Roommates Emmett Christian (‘20) and Samantha Chiodi (‘21) saw the events unfold from their dorm room window. “The first thing that happened was the smell of smoke in New Castle, lights in the room,” Christian said. “I thought it was popcorn or a vape and then real smoke and fire trucks and then people had morbid curiosity and texted all [their] Greeley friends.”
Sky Potter (‘19) lived in Greeley at the time of the fire. “It was strange because my roommate and I started getting our phones blown up and we just ignored it for a while,” Potter said. “Eventually, my roommate got a call from our friend asking us frantically if we were in the building.” Potter exited the building unscathed. “I was lucky to have my most important belongings either on me or were able to be retrieved.”
Most students did not lose many of their belongings in the fire. “Much to my amazement, the sprinkler system hadn’t even gone off, which seemed somewhat concerning,” Robert McCluskey (‘19) said. Once the fire was extinguished, a firefighter brought McCluskey inside to grab a couple necessities, including his wallet.
As for everything else, the gym was set up for residents to claim their salvageable belongings. While most items hadn’t suffered damage, McCluskey said “we had to rely on other people from the school to remove our things from the apartment and as a result, we did end up losing a number of items that never got brought out.”
As for emotional damage, SNHU students had the opportunity to receive support and counseling in the fire’s aftermath. Students were also followed up “to ensure available support, and, for the most part, got positive feedback from people appreciative of support,” Assistant Dean of Students Meagan Sage said.
Sage had taken action to help the students ease through this incident. On the night of the fire, she said each student was offered a hotel room. Afterwards, students were placed in open residence halls and apartments around campus and brought to Bed, Bath & Beyond to replace some necessities.
“Both Reslife and the SNHU community did a great job handling the situation in my opinion,” McCluskey said. “They were both very open and understanding of the situation.”
Housing was accommodating to all students, including Potter (‘19). “I’ll admit I was probably a burden to housing since I refused to get placed with a random. Can’t be too careful when you are open as trans.”
Residence Life tried to keep roommates together too. Adam Albano (‘18) was relocated to the Rockingham Townhouse with one of his roommates. McCluskey was moved to New Castle with a roommate.
“I was lucky again because I was set to move to Monadnock after that semester [this one] anyway. So I just had to make it to the end of that semester. Then my roommate and I were put with this nice girl, who’s name I also forget, until she graduated and I moved out. I’ve been at Monadnock since.”
With many other older buildings on campus, including the rest of the West Side Apartments, concerns of future fires have been addressed. “Buildings are up to code and all proper testing to ensure buildings are safe, but there are circumstances where things can happen,” Sage said “Scary but true.”
“The entire situation and semester was very stressful after the fire, but it was simply because of the nature of the situation and not because of the way the school handled it,” McCluskey said. “It is hard to think of ways that things could be done better, as a fire is not something people become regularly accustomed to dealing with, but it seemed like what was done was good.”
Over the summer, Whittier Hall will also be demolished, with plans to create a green space between Kingston Hall and New Castle over the summer, according to the March 9 email sent out by the Office of Residence Life Staff.