Nearly $20,000 raised for 16 Rutgers students displaced by house fire

Alex Kenney Dec 24, 2023

The Rutgers chapter of the Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) fraternity has raised nearly $20,000 through fundraising in response to a house fire that damaged one of the fraternity’s satellite houses earlier this month, according to the group’s GoFundMe.

On December 15, 16 Rutgers students lost their off-campus residence on Huntington Street near the College Avenue campus in a fire that broke out at approximately 8 a.m.

Moses Balmaceda, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and a member of ZBT who lived at the house, said he was preparing for a final exam when the building’s fire alarm sounded.

“My fight-or-flight response told me to grab my keys and my wallet, and I headed out,” Balmaceda said. “The next thing I saw was just a cloud of smoke coming from my roof.”

Balmaceda said all 16 residents cleared the premises safely, due in part to the efforts of Mark Klemick, a Rutgers Business School senior and Balmaceda’s roommate. Klemick knocked on doors to alert others of the emergency, said Balmaceda.

On the scene, bystanders yelled to help those still inside the building until the New Brunswick Fire Department arrived, he said. He said their landlord did not make an appearance but said he would contact the students about their security deposits and rent payments soon, according to Balmaceda.

A University spokesperson told The Daily Targum that the University offered to aid students with housing and finances. Additionally, Jeff Broggi, the associate dean of Student Care and Support, reached out to the victims in the immediate aftermath. Broggi also stayed with the students the day of the fire and offered them an office to stay in, Balmaceda said.

He said that despite living in an apartment less impacted by the building fire, Balmaceda was unable to recover his laptop and some articles of clothing from the fire. He said those living in other apartments lost more personal belongings, but the GoFundMe fundraiser is largely intended to cover these costs.

“I’ll give a lot of credit to a bunch of other ZBT organizations around the country, and obviously, the Rutgers community has been pretty amazing to us as well,” Balmaceda said. “I’m very grateful for all of them. I know that everyone is very grateful for those who have contributed to the (fundraising),” Balmaceda said.

He said many are living with their parents while the tenants wait to find replacement housing, as he and seven other former residents live approximately 30 minutes from campus. He said two of the remaining residents live out of state.

The fire came from the residence’s attic and is suspected to be an electrical fire, but the source of the fire is yet to be confirmed, he said.

“All the people in the house that I lived with were genuinely the best people that you can possibly know, and they’ve helped me through a lot of rough times last year,” Balmaceda said. “And obviously, we’re all with each other now through a rough time. So, I’m very appreciative of everyone throughout this process.