Brianna Forte | Copy Editor
A fire completely burned down the gathering place known collectively as “The Barn” on the property of the Chi Phi Xi Delta chapter on Sept. 3, and the fraternity is currently working to fundraise and rebuild.
The fire incident report from Melbourne Fire Station 78 stated that “from the station we could see a large column of smoke behind the address we were dispatched to.”
A neighbor located behind The Barn raised an alarm at 7:01 p.m. on Sept. 3. Brevard County Fire Rescue and Melbourne Fire Department arrived on scene by 7:24 pm.
Senior at Florida Tech and president of Chi Phi Xi Delta, Cody Cochran, explained that the residents at the Chi Phi house were inside the main house roughly 200 yards away when they were alerted about the fire.
“We had no idea by the time we got out there, but it was pretty up in flames,” Cochran said.
No one was injured in the fire, according to the incident report, but the heat from the fire proved an issue.
Cat Nanney, director of student involvement at Florida Tech, arrived on scene after being notified by Cochran, following the crisis management plan for student organizations and greek life.
“The heat was incredibly intense,” recalled Nanney. “We were standing pretty far away and wearing masks, and I was still dying from the heat.”
According to Cochran, Nanny worked with her team members to rehouse the brothers living on the Chi Phi property and provide meal plans for them for seven days.
“They did a fantastic job helping us, and made the decision to move the brothers out of the house until everything was safe,” Cochran said.
The fire department was able to control the fire, but The Barn is no longer of structural use according to Cochran. The fire inspector has yet to identify a cause for the fire.
All of the brothers on the property during the fire were unharmed and most of the contents within The Barn were recovered.
“We were able to recover a lot of our old history and stuff, and the only lost one book, which was our most recent initiation book,” explained Cochran.
The loss of The Barn to the Chi Phi Xi Delta chapter changes the dynamics of the organization, as this gathering place played a central role in the chapter’s social events.
“This is something that was to some people a really huge part of their Florida Tech experience and this is going to be tough for the Chi Phi fraternity,” Nanney, a former Florida Tech student, said. “Especially with how much they cared and they loved that barn.”
The fraternity rents out the property from the Xi Delta Housing Corporation run by elected Chi Phi Xi Delta alumnus.
According to Mario Lenato, the treasurer for the XDHC, the insurance on the building will not cover all of the repair costs, as only the structure itself was insured. The lighting, refrigeration, and other equipment were not covered in the policy.
In response to these events, Lenato and the XDHC created a GoFundMe.
Lenato said the goal for the GoFundMe was set at $150,000 based on consultations with Chi Phi Xi Delta alumni members in the field of construction management.
The XDHC is currently in phase one of their three step plan, which includes planning, design, and construction.
“If we don’t decide to do anything with the land where the barn was, all that money gets refunded back to whoever’s donated,” said Cochran.
As of Nov. 10 the GoFundMe has raised $50,554. A total of 186 people have donated through the GoFundMe, with 17 of the donations consisting of a $1,000 donation or greater.
The meaning of The Barn to Chi Phi Xi Delta alumni is evident in the comments section of the GoFundMe.
“We made a contribution because of the special place the barn holds in its contribution to the makeup of the Xi Delta chapter and to the character of its members,” commented Peter and Kathy Pelc.
Lenato acknowledged the negative impacts of COVID-19 on economics and health, and would like to thank everyone who has donated.
“People have still found it in their hearts to give so that they and many more can preserve the legacy of the barn and to allow thousands of future members and students to form similar experiences,” Lenato said.