Campus community comes together after fire

White Hall staff hold a box of goods delivered from UW-Oshkosh. From left, Senior Laura Buchholz, RA; Junior Liz Theriault, RA; Alli Rygh, graduate student in Student Affairs Administration and White Hall director.

White Hall staff hold a box of goods delivered from UW-Oshkosh. From left, Senior Laura Buchholz, RA; Junior Liz Theriault, RA; Alli Rygh, graduate student in Student Affairs Administration and White Hall director.


After Drake Hall was evacuated for a fire in the basement early Sunday, Jan. 29, displaced Drake students have seen an outpouring of support from the UW-L campus community and beyond.

Among the many donations to Drake residence and staff was a gift from the UW-L Alumni Association. The alumni association offered a $25 Visa gift card to all 271 students displaced by the fire to help with various expenses such as dry cleaning, food, supplies and gasoline.

“We’re proud all students and staff evacuated the building quickly and safely,” says Janie Spencer, executive director of the Alumni Association.

Spencer says the donation in gift cards — totaling $6,775 — is possible thanks to the thousands of alumni who join the UW-L Alumni Association each year.

“It’s thanks to them that we are able to provide alumni programming and support the university and our current students,” explains Spencer. “Our hope is that this small gift will help make the students’ transition into their new home a little bit easier.”

Spencer is also grateful to Merchants Bank, which agreed to waive the activation fees for the cards in support of students.

Chancellor Joe Gow and Residence Life Director Nick Nicklaus talk with Drake residents about living arrangements after the hall was closed for the spring semester due to a fire.

Chancellor Joe Gow and Residence Life Director Nick Nicklaus talk with Drake residents about living arrangements after the hall was closed for the spring semester due to a fire.

Drake was evacuated after a fire started in a basement common area Sunday, Jan. 29. No one was injured in the incident. After ruling out electrical and mechanical problems, investigators believe the fire was caused by “human involvement,” which could be accidental or intentional. The investigation continues.

Drake residents will not be able to move back into the hall this semester because of the extent of the fire damage and necessary repairs. This spurred fellow students across campus to invite Drake students to move into their rooms for the remainder of the semester. About 25 students from Angell Hall opened up their rooms, notes Kate Demerse, residence hall director at Angell.

“Residence life is a campus community and we stand together,” she says.

UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow stands in the Drake Hall basement after the fire.

UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow stands in the Drake Hall basement after the fire.

Other goodwill toward Drake residents and staff included a ‘Bake for Drake’ event where staff prepared treats and a food drive. UW-River Falls sent sweet treats and UW-Oshkosh sent care packages filled with candy, door decorations, bulletin boards, cards and more.

“We love La Crosse and our hearts break for UW-L. It’s our community too,” says Maryne Taute, a residence hall director at UW-Oshkosh.

Anyone with information on the fire should call 608.785.5000