Five George Mason Students Survive Fire, Lose Everything

Posted: May 31, 2000 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Hope J Smith

On Tuesday, May 23, a fire broke out in a Kings Park West townhouse where George Mason students Anne Campbell (Junior, Health Science), Laura de Azagra (Junior, Business Marketing), Nicole McQueen (Junior, Conflict Resolution and Transformation), Stephanie Toutsi (Senior, Communication), and Jackie Wood (Junior, Finance) lived. Campbell, de Azagra, and McQueen were in the house when the fire broke out.

“We were upstairs for about five minutes when we smelled smoke,” says McQueen. After looking for the fire’s source with a fire extinguisher, they realized that “it was too late. In the next half hour,” continues McQueen, “the house burned to a pulp.” Though the women escaped unharmed, the townhouse was burned so badly that it was condemned. And without renter’s insurance, the women lost nearly all of their possessions. “Laura, Anne, and I did not even have shoes because everything happened so quickly that we ran out [without them].”

The cause of the fire remains unknown. The extent of the damage to the townhouse was so great that investigators were unable to go very far inside. Investigators are uncertain whether a candle in the basement started the fire or just fueled it.

The women have received support from many different campus organizations. Ken Bumgarner, University Services, offered to provide them with housing, since space is available in the student apartments. Four of the five women work at the Aquatic and Fitness Center, where they have been met with help and kindness. “We are grateful that it was only material things that were lost and that everyone was okay. It makes you feel so good to know that others are there to help you get through such a devastating experience,” says McQueen. The women were planning to move into new residences on July 1, when their lease would have ended, and they are staying with family and friends until then.

In addition, the GMU Foundation has agreed to act as a collection point for disaster relief. Students, staff members, and faculty members who want to contribute to this cause may send a check to the GMU Foundation at MS 1A3. Checks should be payable to the GMU Foundation and reference the Kings Park Fire. (Please note that these gifts are not tax deductible.) Collections will be accepted through June 30, 2000.

“It has been a rough few days,” says McQueen, “but I know that we are five strong women, and we will get through this together and with everyone’s love and support.”

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