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NH marshal says cause of fire is undetermined

By Sarah Keightley

The New Hampshire Fire Marshal has officially ruled the cause of the fire which destroyed the MIT Outing Club's cabin in Bartlett, NH, as undetermined.

New Hampshire Deputy Fire Marshal John M. Gregoire said this ruling means the investigator is "not sure -- he may suspect something, but it can't be ruled if it was arson or accidental."

The Delta Upsilon pledge class stayed at the cabin and left Nov. 11, the day before it burned down. Harold C. Payson, manager of the cabin, has said that the freshmen lit what they thought was a wood-burning furnace, but which actually was the container for a composting toilet -- fiberglass filled with woodchips, sawdust and bacteria to allow decomposition. The freshmen later realized their mistake and lit the real furnace, then put out the fire in the toilet and stirred the coals.

While eating lunch the next day, one member of the group smelled burning fiberglass. They opened up the toilet and saw glowing coals, Payson has said.

They then poured 20 gallons of water over the coals to extinguish them and were convinced that the fire was out.

Payson said as far as he knew, the fire's details have not changed since last month. "The insurance company is still processing claims, which will take another month or two."

DU was unaware of the fire marshal's official report, according to Philip Y. Oh '93, a member of the fraternity.

Outing Club President David A. Maltz '93 could not be reached by telephone for comment on the fire marshal's ruling.

Temporary structure to be built

Maltz had said that the Outing Club wanted to build a temporary structure in place of the cabin to last throughout the winter. "No temporary structure was built, because MIT didn't want anyone going to the property," since the issue was "unresolved," Payson said. They wanted to leave the site undisturbed, and now there is too much snow on the ground to build another cabin, he said.