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'Living With Fire' week Sept. 16-20 to focus on prevention

Jeff Unger, News Bureau
(217) 333-1085;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — It’s the sort of information that gives parents of college students pause:

orange dot An average of 1,700 fires occur annually in campus residence halls and Greek housing nationwide.

orange dot Last year, 19 students died in fires in residence-hall, Greek and off-campus housing nationwide, according to Campus Firewatch, an electronic newsletter about college and university fire safety.

orange dot On Aug. 13, a 20-year-old student at Michigan Technological University died in a fraternity house fire. Five other students narrowly escaped. Authorities believe the fire started on a stove.

orange dot It’s these sorts of facts that have raised awareness nationally of the need to better educate students and campuses about fire safety. As a result, fire departments nationwide will be participating in "Living With Fire" week Sept. 16-20.

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the message firefighters hope to impart is simple: Learn how to prevent fires and learn how to escape from one.

"Students need to realize the potential fire hazards they’ve got in their rooms," said Steve Mitchell, fire prevention officer for the Urbana Fire Rescue Service Department. "Things like hair dryers, candles, curling irons, halogen lamps and overloaded extension cords are just a few of the items that can quickly ignite a serious fire. Add alcohol to the mix, where someone’s judgment might be impaired from drinking, and the results can be disastrous."

The Champaign and Urbana fire departments will be working together during "Living With Fire" week, said Janet Maupin, fire inspector for the Champaign Fire Department. Among the joint projects the departments have planned:

orange dot Observing fire drills at the Sherman and Florida Avenue residence halls and, if need be, suggest how the evacuations might be done better. The drill at Sherman will begin at 7 p.m. Sept. 16; the drill at FAR will start at 7 p.m. Sept. 19.

orange dot Training students on how to handle and use fire extinguishers in the case of a lab accident. Times: Sept. 16, 8 a.m. to noon; Sept. 17, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Sept. 18: noon to 3 p.m.; Sept. 19: 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Location for the live fire exercises for students in Materials Science and Engineering 392 and Chemistry 393: concrete pad north of the Transportation Building, 104 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana.

orange dot Distributing "Get Out & Stay Alive" instructional videos and pamphlets to the presidents of all certified housing units. Each president will be asked to show the video to unit residents. "We need students to understand that if they hear a fire alarm, don’t ignore it – get out," Maupin said. The video also will be shown on the cable TV system serving university housing as well as on the local cable channels in Champaign and Urbana.

orange dot Placing posters advocating fire safety awareness in MTD buses and in university residence halls.

orange dot Sending a fire-safety video to the national offices of all fraternities and sororities with chapters at Illinois. The video stresses the importance of installing sprinklers to help put out fires, Maupin said.