Basement fire closes down UW La Crosse dorm for the semester - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Basement fire closes down UW La Crosse dorm for the semester

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LA CROSSE (WQOW) -

A University of Wisconsin La Crosse residence hall, damaged by a fire in the basement last Sunday, will not re-open for students this semester.

Residence Life Director Nick Nicklaus sent an email to Drake Hall residents, telling them they would not be able to move back into their dorm rooms.

The news comes after a team of environmental and engineering experts determined it would be at least 2-3 months before Drake would be livable.

While the building is structurally sound, the basement reached a temperature of more than 800 degrees, so electrical and mechanical systems need to be examined.

The dorm also needs to be professionally cleaned.

When UWL administration learned of the new time frame, rather than keep students in temporary housing, they decided to move forward with permanent solutions.

"At that time, the leadership team, with the university, was consulted and the recommendation was made that let's not kid ourselves, let's be proactive, and tell people right upfront, you're not gonna get back in," Nicklaus said.

The move out process will start Friday, and will continue over the next two weekends.

The Residence Life office will work with 271 students individually to ensure they are comfortable with their new placement.

There have been about 50 students who have offered to triple up and house a Drake student.

Western Technical College and Viterbo have also both offered vacant dorm space to UWL.

The university is also reaching out to the community, asking for volunteers to come down this weekend and help students move out of Drake Hall, and into their new housing assignments.

The school hasn't finalized how this will impact students financially, but Chancellor Gow says they will make sure students receive appropriate refunds.

"If we can maintain continuity and they get another room and it's the same kind of room, then they would just pay their same housing fee. But anything that's changed, we'd certainly discount, and if they want to move out entirely and live at home, for example, obviously we'd refund all their money," Gow says.

Nicklaus adds if students are moved to a dorm that is more expensive, students will not have to pay more than they did in Drake.

Chancellor Gow says they are still working to determine the cause of the fire.

He says there is no evidence of an accelerant or that it was premeditated.

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