Just last week, Harminder Toor painted his room at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house near San Jose State University and bought new furniture in anticipation of spending his summer there.
His room, along with others on the second floor of the fraternity at 168 S. 11th Street, was destroyed in a five-alarm fire early this morning.
The blaze, reported at about 3:20 a.m., displaced 28 people and caused an estimated $1.7 million in damage.
“I lost everything,” said Toor, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student.
He had moved off campus for the first time last week and had been busy shopping and setting up his new room. But today, along with the new furniture, he lost his suits, laptop, PlayStation, TV, new watch and iPhone.
“I put so much work in my room,” Toor said. “I know all these material goods I can get back, but it’s just a pain.”
Toor said he was sleeping and was awakened by the sound of people screaming and the smell of smoke.
He and his fellow fraternity members all escaped safely.
San Jose fire Capt. Mary Gutierrez said firefighters entered the home and battled the blaze from inside for about 45 minutes. When it began to look like the building might collapse, they moved outside and fought the fire defensively.
The blaze was controlled at about 6:10 a.m. One firefighter suffered second-degree burns to his hands and was taken to a hospital, but has since been released.
The second floor was badly burned and there was severe water damage to the first floor, she said.
“It’s a complete loss,” Gutierrez said.
Crews were working this morning to salvage the residents’ belongings.
Five chinchillas in a cage were rescued. They were agitated from all the activity, but were otherwise fine, Gutierrez said.
The American Red Cross has been called to the scene to assist the 28 people who were displaced. Gutierrez said there was a summer session under way at the university.
She said the fraternity house is owned by university alumni.
Firefighters from the city of Santa Clara and Santa Clara County manned San Jose fire stations as firefighters battled the blaze.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Gutierrez said it is possible the blaze started in the laundry room.
Liam Kimble, a fourth-year civil engineering student, said he had heard there was a problem with a fuse box, but that it was only a rumor.
Kimble moved out of the fraternity house in December after living there for two years and now lives in a home behind the frat house. He said he still kept his bike in the house, and now it is gone.
He and several of his friends walked back and forth staring at the charred upper half of the building, their expressions dazed and wistful.
Fernando Garcia, a second-year industrial and systems engineering student, said he had joined the fraternity last fall and had planned to move in soon.
“But now it looks like that’s not going to happen,” he said. “It hasn’t really hit me. But, I think we’ll overcome this.”