Story by Mike Nolting, MetroNews

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The first full business day since the fire at The Lofts in Morgantown was a busy one for the administrators at West Virginia University working to help displaced students.

Carrie Showalter

It’s believed a lightning strike started the blaze Friday morning that destroyed 18 units and displaced more than 50 people, mostly students.

WVU Assistant Dean and Executive Director of Campus and Community Life Carrie Showalter said the Lofts property manager has not provided the numbers or names of the students affected, making it difficult to direct relief efforts.

“I do believe they have put them up in other locations. I’ve been told this is the same entity that owns the domain,” Showalter said. “So it’s my understanding they have provided housing, whether it’s temporary or more permanent.”

Showalter said they are working with students who have come forward and are prepared to help others as needed. As the students come forward, each situation is evaluated, and action is taken as quickly as possible.

“We’re trying to get a handle on each individual situation,” Showalter said. “We have had some people that have self-reported, and we’ve had some people that have come to us through their professors; they’ve reached out to their professors, saying they were affected, and they have reached out to us.”

Showalter said there are options for students who have suffered the loss of text books and technology needed for classes. Other losses, maybe not related directly to academics, can be addressed through a variety of resources, including local non-profits.

“We do have access to some emergency funds through our office that we can provide students with to replace books they need or other items that are not covered,” Showalter said.

WVU Student Legal Services also has resources to help students understand what is available to them and any legal recourse they could have. Some of these consultations can help students quickly access aid sources they may not have known about.

“The student attorney can work with them in reviewing the lease, whether they have renters insurance or if they’re covered under their parents’ homeowner’s insurance,” Showalter said. “And we can also certainly work with the financial aid office.”

Showalter said they keep track of companies that rent to students and have that information available as students are making the decision on where to live. However, many times that information is available through company reviews online and word of mouth from other students.

“Getting the word out and trying to steer people in the direction of landlords that are compassionate about and concerned about students as individuals and not just the number of tenants,” Showalter said.