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Sept. 07, 2012
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine

Apartment fire displaces three students

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - A middle-of-the night rescue helped bring Slippery Rock University student Dilshani Madawala to safety Wednesday after fire broke out at the off-campus Cooper Street Apartments.

Madawala, a health and physical education major originally from Sri Lanka, was helped out of a second-story window by a non-student neighbor, said James Peters, a captain with the Slippery Rock Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Team.

The fire began in Apartment 59 at 227 W. Cooper St. about 2:45 a.m., sending smoking to Apartment 60 above, where Madawala lived.

"He actually grabbed her when she was coming out the window," Peters said. "She was dangling out the window, and he just lowered her to the ground. She was fine."

Peters said the stairwell to Apartment 60 was above the fire. Heavy smoke and heat made it too dangerous to use.

"It was a good job on his part - 12 feet without shoes is a big fall," Peters said.

The fire, which started in the hot water tank area of Apartment 59, caused an estimated $100,000 of damage. Peters said the fire department was dispatched at 2:47 a.m. and was on the scene by 2:53 a.m.

"The hot water tank ended up breaking and mostly put the fire out," Peters said.

Living in the affected apartments were Madawala, Damilola Alabi, a biology major from Nigeria, and Adebola Moronfolu, an accounting major from New Britain, Conn. They were unharmed by the fire and have been moved to temporary housing off campus, said John Bonando, SRU assistant vice president for student services.

The Slippery Rock University Foundation, Inc. donated $250 to each student to help buy clothing. The University made contact with the American Red Cross and is helping the students replace textbooks and other items.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.