Local Fire Claims a Young Life and Leaves Over 30 Homeless

As UMass students and the community at large mourn the loss of 21-year-old UMass student James Hoffman, Stoughton, Mass., questions still linger as to where and how the fire that claimed his young life originated.

The fire, which was reported at 4:43 a.m. Monday January 21, spread quickly through 10 units, leaving five completely destroyed internally.

UMass Amherst campus spokesman Ed Blaguszewski released a statement shortly after the fire, before the victim was identified, saying, “We understand, based on information provided by the Amherst Fire Department, that a man died today in a fire at an off-campus condominium building, and that he has been identified as a UMass Amherst student. Official identity of the victim will be made by state officials. This is a terrible tragedy, and we deeply mourn this loss of life. The university is providing support to all UMass students and there families affected by the fire.”

I happen to live in the Rolling Green Apartment complex. Luckily, my building was not at all affected by the fire, but it is obvious that the whole community of residents has been shaken in one way or another.

No official letters or emails were released to residents from the apartment staff directly discussing the fire January 31st, 10 days after the fire, when they sent out an email to residents saying, “Many thanks go to all the residents who have helped during this very difficult time, along with the many members of the Amherst Fire Department, neighboring Fire Departments, Amherst Police and the American Red Cross. We are happy to report that we have secured new homes for every resident who has needed one, and some residents have moved to other communities” and providing information on where to send donations or cards for the deceased.

Although there has been no official statement on whether or not all of the fire alarms in the buildings were properly functioning, their has been some speculation within the community of residents that this may have been a contributing factor, as in the immediate days following the fire the staff of the apartment complex changed all of the fire alarms in the buildings and has repeatedly tested them.

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