CSU, Fire Department set mock dorm ablaze to demonstrate hazards

tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 19, 2014 

Columbus Fire Department Fire Marshal Ricky Shores narrates as firefighters tackle the blaze resulting from a dorm room fire demonstration at Columbus State University. The event, called Burn Notice, was created to show freshman students how quickly fires can spread.

BY TIFFANY STEVENS — tstevens@ledger-enquirer.com

In less than three minutes, Columbus state University students watched a small fire consume a mock dorm room.

Burn Notice, hosted by CSU Residence Life, was created as a practical demonstration to show how quickly an unattended flame can escalate.

"It's an effort to show incoming freshman students, especially, how quickly fire can spread from a knocked-over candle or a stick of incense," Columbus Fire Department Fire Marshal Ricky Shores said. "This is the first year we've had such an event in Columbus."

Residence Life Manager Robin Peacock modeled the event off similar demonstrations that have been held at universities across the country. The mock dorm room — a small, wooden structure large enough to house two students — was decorated with drapes, decorative chairs, and strewn about clothes to further emulate what a typical student's room might look like.

Attended by about 200 students, the event was complete with free food provided by Firehouse Subs, music and free items such as T-shirts and firefighter hats.

"We also are teaching students how to use fire extinguishers, giving out oven mitts to remind them to stay with what they're cooking and demonstrating other fire safety skills," Peacock said.

Students gathered close as firefighters lit the structure with a torch. Within seconds, the blaze began eating away at walls, at one point reaching a temperature of 1600 degrees.

"You would not survive an incident like this," Shores said, narrating the fire for onlooking students.

After watching firefighters knock a large amount of ash from an armchair inside the mock dorm room, first year astrophysics major Jacob Ortiz expressed gratitude that he chose to live at home.

"I was going to get a dorm, but not anymore," Ortiz said. "Imagine if that was all of your stuff."

Jasmine Reese, a sophomore biology major, said she came out on her off day just for the event.

"I thought it was really cool to have a live demonstration. I've never seen a live fire before," Reese said. "They said on average it takes three minutes for firefighters to get there and five minutes before that for you to notice. I thought it would spread a lot more slowly than that."

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