As college students move in to new apartments this week, now is a good time for them to check and make sure they have working fire alarms.
We all were tragically reminded of the importance of this early Wednesday morning, when a four-alarm fire destroyed an apartment building on Myrick Street in Allston, Mass., a community popular with college students. After it took about five-and-a-half hours to put the blaze out 11 college students and young professionals who lived in the building were displaced .
Fire investigators said it could have been much worse because the two-and-a-half story house had inadequate smoke detectors and sprinkler protection, according to Boston Fire Commissioner Joe Finn. Damage to the building was estimated at around $1 million.
“We’re very fortunate last night that we didn’t have a loss of life,” Finn told WBZ NewsRadio 1030. “I think the fact that the tenants who were on that third floor weren’t home is probably the reason why, because I think if they were home, they never would have made it out.”
Fire inspectors think the fire started in a rear bathroom, but they were still trying determine the cause. The fire commissioner said investigators found several issues with the house.
“It was a building that was broken up into single-room occupancies, which is illegal,” said Finn. “They had inadequate smoke detectors and alarm systems in the building and lacked sprinkler protection for the number of occupants.”
Public officials in Massachusetts and states across the nation have designated September as Campus Fire Safety Month to raise awareness of the risk of fires at off-campus student housing. Since 2000, 85% of college-related fire fatalities have happened in off-campus housing, where most students live, according to Campus Firewatch.
In Massachusetts all five campus-related fire deaths over the past 10 years have occurred in off-campus housing. One of those students was Binland Lee, a 22-year-old senior studying marine science at Boston University.
Lee died in April 2013 in an off-campus fire in Allston. She was trapped on the third-floor of 87 Linden Street, a dwelling not in compliance with the state building code because there were not two means of egress. Additionally, the building’s fire-detection system either malfunctioned or wasn’t interconnected as required by law so that an alarm would sound on the upper floors.
Overall, most college-related fires happen because students aren’t aware of fire safety and prevention. That’s why it’s important for off-campus students to understand the fire risks and know the measures that they should take to save their lives.
To that end, the state is urging students to be sure that their off-campus apartments have working smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and multiple ways to escape.
“Massachusetts is the home away from home to thousands of college students, and many upper classmen live off-campus, where potentially dangers are much more common,” said Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito in a statement. “Every student has the right to safe housing.”
Following these tips will give you peace of mind and go a long way toward keeping your kids safe while they’re home alone.