Breaking News

UPDATED 04/25/14 9:55 pm with victim identification

For Immediate Release

Ed Comeau, Publisher
Campus Firewatch

Person dies in off-campus fire at Purdue University

Second fatal off-campus fire at Purdue this academic year

BELCHERTOWN, Mass – Updated: April 25, 2014 – An occupant in an off-campus apartment house occupied by Purdue University students was killed in an early-morning fire.  The victim was identified as Cody Day, 22, of Coonersville.  Day was not a student at Purdue and was visiting friends who are Purdue University students.

According to West Lafayette Fire Chief Tim Heath, the fire was reported at 5:00 a.m. this morning by one of the occupants who was leaving to go jogging. When the fire department arrived on the scene, the fire had extended the entire height of the three-story, wood-frame structure and was coming out of the roof. All of the occupants had been able to escape from the building before the fire department arrived on the scene, but one student was burned when he went back into the building. He was transported to an area hospital, but his injuries are not believed to be life threatening.  The 32-unit building was not equipped with an automatic fire sprinkler system, but there were smoke alarms sounding when the fire department was on the scene.  The fire was under control within an hour and fifteen minutes, and personnel from West Lafayette Fire and Purdue University Fire were used on the scene.

The fire is under investigation by the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s office.  The cause of the fire has not been announced as of yet.

This is the fourth fatal fire of the 2013/2014 academic year, and the second one in West Lafayette.  On November 13, 2013, Purdue University student Scott Notary was killed in an off-campus fire.

Common factors in a number of these fires include:

  • Missing or disabled smoke alarms
  • Careless disposal of smoking materials
  • Lack of a second exit
  • Fires starting in couches on porches or decks

Since 2000, there has been a definite downward trend to campus-related fire deaths since its peak in 2006-2007 with 20 fatalities, but off-campus housing is still the greatest risk where over four out of five fire deaths occur. The last fatal fire in a fraternity was 2006 and the last residence hall fire death occurred in 2005, a testimony to the strong efforts being made by schools and communities across the country.

Information on campus fire safety is available from Campus Firewatch, including a Campus Firewatch Information Sheet, a map showing the locations and details of campus-related fires since 2000 as well as educational material, including the video documentary 9 Fires.

Recent Fatal Campus-Related Fires

  • Purdue University/West Lafayette, IN An unidentified person was killed in an apartment building occupied by Purdue University students
  • University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND Sophomore Matthew Heisler was killed in an off-campus fire
  • Frostburg State University/Frostburg, MD Lateef Gazal was killed in an off-campus house fire
  • Purdue University/West Lafayette, IN  A student, Scott Notary, was killed in an off-campus house fire. 
  • Boston University/Boston, MA A student, Binland Lee, was killed in an off-campus fire that occurred across the street from the 2012 fire that injured a number of BU students, one critically.
  • University of Massachusetts/Amherst, MA  A student was killed on January 18 in an off-campus apartment fire.
  • University of Cincinnati/Cincinnati, OH   Ellen Garner died on January 14 andUni Chad Kohls died on January 7 from an off-campus fire that had broken out on New Year’s Day.  
  • St. Cloud State University/St. Cloud, MN Kyle Kopischke was killed in an off-campus apartment fire.  The fire started in the kitchen area and is believed to be accidental.
  • University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, WI Two students were killed and two more injured in an off-campus apartment fire. 
  • University of Memphis/Memphis, TN  Paul Horbelt, a sophomore, was killed in an off-campus apartment fire.  The cause of the fire is under investigation at this time.
  • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville/Edwardsville, Illinois  A fire in an off-campus house has killed two students. The students have been identified as Lauren D. Petersen, age 19, of Timberwood Drive, Bethalto, Illinois and Lacy V. Siddall, age 21, Briarwood Drive, Bethalto, Illinois.  The preliminary investigation points towards a power strip and laptop as the possible cause of the fire.  Initial reports are that the smoke alarm did not have a working battery in it.
  • Marist College/Poughkeepsie, NY  On Saturday, January 21, three students were killed in an off-campus house at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.  The cause of the fire is still under investigation.