Take Action to Stop Campus Fire Deaths

By Ed Comeau

On October 10, an off-campus fire at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire claimed the lives of two promising students, Ross Livermore and Jacob Clarkson.  This is a tragedy for the families, the school and the community and our hearts go out to them.

We have all lost loved ones in campus fires that, so often, are preventable.  Because of this, we have joined together to help raise awareness among students and parents about what they can do to prevent a fire and what to do if one happens.

Fires are preventable, but even if one should break out, being prepared and knowing what to do can save lives.  So often it is simple steps that can make the difference between life and death and we implore everyone to take the time to learn what to do, to take personal responsibility for their own safety.  More than four out of five campus-related fires happen in off-campus housing, where most of the students live and what a student learns about fire safety while at school or in the dorms is knowledge that he or she will carry with them for the rest of their life.

There are steps that everyone can take, it just takes a few minutes to learn about them.

Prevention  Preventing a fire is the first step because you don’t have to escape the fire that does not happen.  Learn more about how to cook safely, which is the leading cause of all home fires.  Make sure cigarettes are properly extinguished because cigarette fires are the leading cause of fatal fires.

Sprinklers  Without a doubt, automatic fire sprinklers save lives.  Live in sprinklered housing, whenever possible.  Not all university housing is sprinklered, so insist that your child be placed in a residence hall with sprinklers.

Smoke alarms  A smoke alarm can only save your life if it is working.  Don’t disable it, don’t take it down.  If there isn’t one in the house where your child is living, buy one (or two, or three) and for the price of a pizza, you can have peace of mind.  The leading cause of fatal fires is cigarettes, which often start as a smoldering fire.  Photoelectric smoke alarms are better at detecting these deadly fires than ionization and are generally not disabled as much-so think about which one you want.

Two ways out  Wherever you are, a dorm, a house, a restaurant, a movie theater, know two ways out.  It only takes a few seconds to look around and these few seconds may save your life some day.

We encourage parents, schools, communities and our national fire safety organizations to take action to help raise awareness.  When a tragedy such as Eau Claire happens, it is a loss for everyone.  Use this teachable moment to drive home the importance of fire safety with your children, your students, your citizens.  Philadelphia Fire Department is coordinating a city-wide fire drill with its schools on October 18 and the La Crosse Fire Department and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse are convening a Campus Fire Safety Summit on October 22.  We applaud both of these efforts and ask that more be done across the nation to avoid these tragedies and raise awareness among everyone.

There is more information on campus fire safety at

·         Campus Firewatch

·         The Michael H. Minger Foundation

·         The United States Fire Administration

·         TheNational Fire Protection Association


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