A University at Buffalo student who dropped a small butane torch that he was using to light marijuana in his North Campus dorm room last year, setting himself on fire and causing $80,000 damage, was sentenced Friday to three years’ probation.
Alec Seidenberg also was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service while on probation.
State Supreme Court Justice M. William Boller noted that Seidenberg had already paid $1,000 in restitution from funds he earned while working at a restaurant, with the amount of the restitution based on his ability to pay.
The remaining $79,000 in fire, water and smoke damage was covered by the UB Campus Living Department, which had to dip into its operating funds, according to Don Erb, director of residential facilities at UB.
Erb said the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York has insurance to cover damage at its dorms, but the deductible is considerably higher than $79,000, and as a result that insurance was not available to help the department offset the cost.
The judge also noted that in addition to his restaurant job, Seidenberg is pursuing his studies at Erie Community College while he is suspended at UB, awaiting a decision on his future there.
The judge remarked on the unusual way in which the fire started, questioning Seidenberg’s decision to light the marijuana in an unconventional way and noting the damage that resulted.
Seidenberg, 20, of Westchester County, was originally charged with fourth-degree arson and criminal mischief in connection with the fire May 2, 2013, in his dorm room in Building 1 of the Spaulding Quadrangle in the Ellicott Dormitory Complex, according to Assistant District Attorney Paul J. Glascott. He pleaded guilty in October to criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.
He suffered burns on his feet and face and was treated in Erie County Medical Center. His girlfriend also suffered minor burns after Seidenberg, in trying to brush the fire off himself, ended up setting his fourth-floor room on fire, UB police said. The girlfriend was treated in ECMC and released.
Police said when the fire was reported at 6:17 p.m., they found a working fire with alarms sounding. About 200 students were evacuated from seven buildings.
Students were allowed to return to their rooms at 9:30. Nineteen students who lived on the same floor as Seidenberg were temporarily housed in nearby hotels.
The alarms triggered by the fire automatically shut the building’s fire doors and helped confine the fire to Seidenberg’s room, police said.