Overnight fires on Crown Street, which displaced students living in off-campus housing and members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, may have been started intentionally.
Around 2:40 a.m. Thursday morning, the New Haven Fire Department arrived at the corner of Crown and Park Streets after residents of 401 Crown St. reported a fire on the exterior of the property, and other fires on the exteriors of 397 Crown St. and the AEPi fraternity house at 395 Crown St. David Ribot ’17, president of AEPi, said Thursday morning that one of his fraternity brothers had smelled smoke and woke up the rest of the people living in the house. When they left the house, firefighters were already extinguishing flames on the exteriors of the building and the two adjacent houses.
“I would say we have the worst damage, in the sense that there is now a large hole on the front of our house,” Ribot said.
Members of the men’s varsity swim team live at 397 Crown St., and graduate students live at 401. Each of the scorched houses is owned by Pike International, and Pike representatives did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The fire’s damage did not extend within the house, Ribot said. Even though the fire ultimately had little impact, firefighters had to break down part of the front of the house in order to determine how deep the fire was spreading. A state police arson dog was also brought to the scene in an effort to track down whether accelerants had been used.
A Yale junior who lives in the AEPi house said on the condition of anonymity that officers told him that it appears someone went along the side of three houses, lighting them intentionally.
Ribot said he could not comment on the information, as the investigation is ongoing, but Yale Police Department Chief Ronnell Higgins sent an email telling the campus that the fire may have been intentional. Higgins’ email, sent shortly after 11 a.m., confirmed that students who live in the affected buildings were not harmed and were allowed to return to their buildings late Thursday afternoon.
Ribot said in a Thursday night text message that the fraternity has received support from the local authorities and their residential colleges. He added that there is not much internal damage to the house, and the hole in the front of the house will be repaired by the landlord tomorrow.
“We’re mostly just thankful that everyone is okay and that this was resolved pretty quickly,” Ribot said. “Everyone who lives in the house has been back, and things are starting to return to normal.”
The fire that occurred on Crown Street was not the only call that the NHFD received in the early hours of Thursday morning. New Haven Fire Marshall Robert Doyle said in a Thursday press conference that a total of four fires were extinguished — technically seven, if the Crown Street fires are counted as three.
In regards to the fires on Crown Street, Doyle said he is confident that the NHFD will be able to determine the origin of the fire and move toward a full investigatory report.
“It’s going to be a long day,” he said.
As of Thursday night, the fires remain under active investigation, and those with information are encouraged to contact the New Haven Police Department.