CSU-Pueblo student charged with arson

Photo courtesy of Colostate-pueblo.edu
Evacuation alarms went off at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 at Culebra Hall. Students were not allowed back into the hall until after 12:30 a.m. on Oct. 7. Photo courtesy of Colostate-pueblo.edu

Colorado State University-Pueblo student Christian Cunningham, 19, has been arrested and charged with arson under the suspicion of starting the fire in Culebra Hall on Sunday, Oct. 6 at approximately 10:30 p.m.

Cunningham was in his room on the west side on the second floor of Culebra on Sunday evening, and was reportedly using an open flame in an irresponsible manner.

“Cunningham was making fire balls in his room and set his futon on fire. The sprinkler system put the fire out before the fire department arrived,” said Lisa Shorter, public information officer at the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Department.

Cunningham has been arrested and charged for a class four felony in arson, class four felony in criminal mischief and a class three misdemeanor in reckless endangerment.

This does not include the punishment that will eventually be passed down by the university, which is undetermined at this point in time.

Authorities and firefighters were dispatched to the fire in Culebra Hall when the sprinkler system in one of the dorm rooms went off Sunday evening.

The entire building was evacuated, and about 200 students were forced to wait outside or in the lobby of either Crestone or Greenhorn for about two hours.

Most of the Culebra residents were allowed back into their rooms on Oct. 7 at approximately 12:30 a.m. Residents on the first and second floor on the west side of Culebra have not been permitted to return to their rooms because of the potential safety hazards.

There were no reported injuries, though there is the potential for water damage to the foundation of the building. Since the sprinkler system was activated, water damage could compromise the stability of the floor to the second level and the ceiling to the first floor.

“Inspectors are testing to make sure the sheetrock hasn’t been damaged from the water. I’m guessing the second floor residence will be allowed to return to their rooms on Wednesday and the first floor residence not until Thursday,” said Cora Zaletel, executive director of external affairs at CSU-Pueblo.

Students who have not yet been given permission to return to their rooms were given the options of staying with friends or in a room in Belmont.

Even with the opening of Belmont to those who cannot reenter their rooms, Zaletel reported that only seven students have taken the option of living in Belmont temporarily.

“The authorities and fireman all did their jobs and responded amazingly. I believe students on campus are responsible and this is an isolated incident. It may just change the way material that causes concern is dealt with,” Shorter said.

Shorter wants all students to remember that open flames of any kind are prohibited from being in any of the dorms on campus, because even though this fire was easily put out, these rules are in place for safety reasons.