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Damage from UT fire at $200,000

Fire investigators don't know yet what caused a three-alarm fire Friday at the University of Tampa's McKay Auditorium, but university officials say the flames and the water it took to put them out caused about $200,000 in damage.

On Monday, carpeting, seating and parts of the ceiling inside the hall were soaked. A tarp covered the large hole burned in the roof after the fire engulfed a decorative dome.

"They put a lot of water on it to put that fire out," said UT President David Ruffer. The university leases its buildings from the city.

Before the fire Friday, a roofing crew had completed repairs to the cupola that capped the 67-year-old building and left the site about noon, said Bruce Savage, division chief and spokesman for the Tampa Fire Department. The cupola had been damaged during March's no-name storm.

By 2 p.m., the cupola was ablaze, with flames shooting as high as the minarets of nearby Plant Hall and black smoke billowing into the air. Firefighters, working in crews inside the building and on the roof, had the blaze under control by 2:49 p.m., said Deputy Fire Chief Aubrey Grant.

Fire investigators are interviewing members of the roofing crew as they try to piece together what happened, Savage said, but no one has been blamed in the fire.

After consulting with contractors on Monday, university officials estimated repairs will cost $200,000, said Grant Donaldson, director of public affairs. The roof will have to be replaced, damaged carpeting and seating removed and the plaster ceiling taken down, he said. A wall will be built to block off an area that contains asbestos before the repairs begin.

The original cost of the octagonal brick building, known as Municipal Auditorium when it was finished in 1926, was $300,000.

Recently, UT has been considering renovating the building to use as its business college. The fire will neither speed nor slow that project, Ruffer said, which the college estimates would cost $4-million to $5-million.

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