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‘Determined’ probe of fatal Amherst fire continues

Firefighters from Hadley prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from ten units.
KEVIN GUTTING

Firefighters from Hadley prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from ten units. KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

Enku Gelaye, associate vice chancellor and dean of students at UMass, sent an email to the campus community announcing that James “Jake” Hoffman, 21, of Stoughton, had died. The victim’s identity had not been made public immediately.

“James was in his final year of studying hospitality and tourism management in the Isenberg School of Management,” Gelaye wrote. “We extend our sincere condolences to James’ family and friends and commit to supporting them through this unimaginable time of grief.”

The Rolling Green fire displaced more than 30 tenants, with most able to find new housing either at the complex or with assistance from the Pioneer Valley chapter of the Red Cross.

Hoffman’s death came just as classes were set to resume Tuesday following the winter intersession.

Gelaye said that the university is assisting with housing, spiritual support services, emergency loans, meal plan options, parking permits and other needs for the UMass students who lost their homes and belongings.

“This is a tragedy with wide-reaching consequences for our community, and we are working with departments across campus to provide direct support and resources to other UMass Amherst students who were displaced by the fire,” Gelaye said.

Meanwhile, the cause of the fire remains under investigation. Amherst Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson said two Amherst firefighters, two Amherst police officers and five representatives of the state police and the state fire marshal’s office are handling the probe.

“It’s a very determined type of investigation. We want to make sure to do it right because someone lost their child,” Nelson said.

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