Only you can prevent apartment fires

Fire Marshals give safety tips to protect students across Eugene/Springfield.

During a crisp and overcast Oct. 9 afternoon, a fire safety demonstration at the newly built 959 Franklin student housing building showed what information students might be missing about fire safety. Eugene Springfield Deputy Fire Marshall Merrill Harrison and American Campus Communities Vice President Michael Polzin spoke at the event. These two, with University of Oregon’s Fire Marshal Josep Pedrola, gave out fire prevention and safety tips directed toward students living in places off-campus. The expertise included fire alarm configuration, fire drill safety measures, and methods for coping with stress during emergencies.


“Nationally, firefighters respond to around 4,100 fire-related to on and off-campus student housing per year,” Harrison reported. “Ninety-four percent of those fatal fires happen off-campus,” he said. Smoking was shown to be the highest cause at 29% for on-campus fatal fires, while alcohol consumption was involved in 76% of all fires on campus or off.


“If you do smoke,” Harrison said, “make sure to put it out all the way, every time.” This prevents otherwise safe locations used for smoking to become dangerous for all individuals in the immediate area.


Another important but underused exercise is exit drills. Practicing which route is the safest to take during a fire can save lives. “In the event of an emergency, when seconds count, second-guessing where you are going or heading costs important time,” Harrison said.


One helpful tip given by Harrison would be to not use extension cords as permanent wiring in homes.


The most important tips Harrison gave was to “look after each other, keep each other safe, and care about each other. And working together will certainly create a fire-safe environment for everybody.”


Speaking second was Josep Pedrola, The University of Oregon’s Fire Marshal. 


“If you are on campus,” he said to new students.  “Please come by and ask questions. Any housing staff you see you can reach out to them with some of your questions.”


Pedrola offered advice specific to kitchen hazards. “The person, first of all, may not be paying attention, this could mean talking on the phone or to somebody else in the household, while not focusing on the food they are making,” he said. “The other problem is one of cleanliness. Grease can accumulate on the stovetop, oven, and sides. This seems to be the other greatest problem with fire in the kitchen.” 


The last person to speak was Micheal Polzin, Vice President of American Campus Communities, who congratulated the marshals for doing such great work across Eugene/Springfield and the University of Oregon. Polzin said “resources, local or national for that matter, are highly important. We are not the experts, especially when it comes to fire safety which is why we team up with individuals who are so we can get our students and residents more informed and educated.”


These tips and exercises can save lives. Knowing when to use this information, according to the event’s experts, is key to fighting fires without significant damage.