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Iconic Pi Kappa Alpha fire truck center of arson investigation

By Geoffrey Foster
On June 18, 2014

Everyone at Marshall University knows about the fire truck. It has sat on the lawn of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house, encircled with white stones, for decades now. It is the symbol for Pi Kappa Alpha, a nationwide fraternity. However, the presence of actual fire trucks on frat house lawns across the U.S. is far less prevalent than it used to be. Marshall’s chapter is one of the few that still has one, which makes the recent vandalism of the truck especially sad.
Anthony Spano, president of the Marshall chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha, said the incident occurred June 11 around midnight.
“One of our members was standing on the front porch near the truck and he said that flames spontaneously shot out of the truck’s front cab,” Spano said. “Once we got the fire out, we found a propane tank inside. What we figure someone had done was create a slow leak in the tank, used some sort of delayed lighting method and then ran away. There have been several people in the chapter that saw several individuals around the fire truck about 30 minutes prior to this happening, but didn’t think anything of it at the time.”
Spano said that he and the other chapter members are relieved the propane tank didn’t explode, otherwise they would be dealing with a much different situation.
However, the suspected arson of the fire truck does not appear to be an isolated incident.
Earlier in the month, a dumpster burst into flames, creating a large fire that Spano could see blazing behind a row of houses across the street from his place of work. Another dumpster blaze occurred two days after the truck fire, this time in the alleyway behind the Pi Kappa Alpha house.
The truck, a 1967 International Pumper, is nicknamed “Thumper” for a member of the local chapter who passed away. It has sat on the lawn since the mid-90s to replace the old truck that originally sat there. It has been an icon for the fraternity since its inception, both locally and nationwide. The truck has always represented the charity work that many chapters do for burn victim foundations across the country.
Spano said that the fraternity is looking at options either for replacement or restoration of the vehicle.
“There’s a strong push from our alumni base to either restore the truck or get a new one,” Spano said. “Huntington law that states that you can’t have your cars parked on your front lawn and we are the only grandfather vehicle in the city that is allowed to be placed there. So, because of that, this fire truck has been known as a city landmark. It is a symbol that every member who passes through this fraternity remembers and cherishes. So, now were looking at all options in terms of renovation and replacement.”
However, Spano said the fraternity’s chief concern is the safety of his fellow students on Greek Row.
“We, as a fraternity, and myself, as president, want to make sure that everybody is safe, not only on this property, but Greek Row and Marshall in general,” Spano said. “It’s important that everybody feels safe here.”
Huntington Fire Marshall Steve Ellis said that he could not discuss the incident since it is part of an ongoing investigation.
Spano said if anybody has any information, he hopes that he or she will inform the proper authorities, even if it is reported anonymously.
Geoffrey Foster can be contacted at foster147@marshall.edu.

 

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