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UB student arrested following Spaulding fire

Published June 19, 2014

UB Police today charged a dormitory student with arson, reckless endangerment and other crimes following Thursday’s fire in Spaulding Quad on the North Campus.

Alex Seidenberg, 19, from Ardsley, was arrested after he allegedly used a butane torch while using marijuana. Police believe Seidenberg dropped the torch while smoking, which caused the fire. He also was charged with possession of marijuana and criminal mischief. The university strictly prohibits the use of such devices or smoking in residence halls.

Seidenberg was taken to Erie County Medical Center Thursday night and was expected to be released today. His girlfriend was treated and released at ECMC Thursday night. The two were the only ones injured in the fire.

Police issued Seidenberg an appearance ticket to appear in Amherst Town Court.

The alarm at Spaulding Quad Building 1 went off at 6:17 p.m. Thursday, according to university police. When officers arrived, they found a working fire on the fourth floor, with alarms sounding as students evacuated the building, police said.

Police searched the building, knocking on doors and instructing students to leave.

“The fire alarm system, coupled with the University Police response, permitted a quick and orderly evacuation of these buildings,” said Police Chief Gerald W. Schoenle Jr.

The Getzville Fire Department responded to the alarm and was backed up by the Ellicott Creek and North Bailey Fire departments. 

“The quick response and excellent work of these departments are the reasons why there was minimal damage and the fire was confined to one room,” Schoenle said.

The fire doors and alarm systems all operated properly, preventing damage to the rest of the building, according to Schoenle. Shortly after the building was evacuated, UB Communications sent out text and email alerts advising students that the fire was under control and asking everyone to stay away until further notice.

Firefighters and police closed the building until 9:28 p.m. when all fire alarms were reset. UB Communications sent an all-clear message permitting students to return to their rooms, with the exception of the fourth floor of Spaulding Quad Building 1. Nineteen students were displaced. Campus Living staff found them temporary rooms at a local hotel and is working with the students individually to provide them with housing that best meets their particular needs for the rest of the semester.

Schoenle also wanted to recognize and thank Getzville Fire Chief Chris Kaplewicz, who was the incident commander; New York State fire investigators; James Zymanek, emergency manager for the Town of Amherst; and James Reger, UB’s emergency manager who assisted in the investigations and cleanup on the scene.