Heavy smoke billowed out of the roof of the Kappa Alpha fraternity house on Monday afternoon. Dust from inside of an old air conditioning unit caused the fire, said Cary Williams, Gainesville Fire Rescue district chief.
Gainesville Fire Rescue got the call around 3:30 p.m. Three Gainesville Fire Rescue vehicles and UF Police converged at the house on Fraternity Row to find smoke in the air and an air conditioning repair service vehicle parked outside.
Earlier in the day, a serviceman came to the house to check if the heater still worked, Williams said.
“It’s my understanding that the heater was old and hadn’t been used in a while,” he said.
Once it was turned on, the unit began to smolder.
Firefighters evacuated the house and used fans to clear the smoke. They immediately identified the air conditioning unit as the source of the smoke but could not quickly clean out all of the burning embers, said Capt. Kristy Sasser, UF Police Department spokeswoman.
“Right when they think that it’s out, they’re having more fire pop out,” she said.
According to the 2019 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, the last recorded Greek fire was also sparked by an air conditioning unit. The motor of Kappa Alpha Theta’s unit malfunctioned and caught fire in 2018.
While Fire Rescue worked to clean the embers, fraternity brothers waited in the cold outside of the house. They declined to comment.
No one was injured, Williams said. By 8 p.m., all of the dust was removed and responders cleared the scene.