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Ed Comeau, Publisher
Campus Firewatch
413-296-1982
ecomeau@campus-firewatch.com

Georgetown graduate dies in off-campus fire in Washington, DC

Fourth fatal fire of the 2014/2015 academic year

BELCHERTOWN, Mass. June 10, 2015 –Nina Brekelmans, a graduate student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, was killed in an off-campus fire on early Wednesday, June 3. DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services was dispatched shortly after 2:30 a.m., according to DC-FEMS Public Information Officer Tim Wilson, to a fire in a three-story rowhouse in the 1600 block of Riggs Road. The initial first alarm was quickly upgraded to a second alarm. Fire fighters had difficulty gaining access into the building because of security bars on the first-floor windows, and after the fire was extinguished, two victims were found. One was Nina Brekelmans, who had just graduated from Georgetown on May 15 with a Master of Arts in Arab Studies, according to a statement from Georgetown University. She was planning on continuing her studies and had been awarded a Fulbright grant.

According to the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, a second victim died in the fire, 24-year-old Michael Patrick McLoughlin, who was not a student. According to media reports, both victims were found on the third floor. Two other residents were transported to the hospital with injuries and three fire fighters had minor injuries.

According to a news story in today’s Washington Post, the building was not licensed by the city for rental units, which is required.

The fire is under investigation at this time

This is the fourth fatal fire of the 2014/2015 academic year, all in off-campus occupancies. Since 2000, 170 people have been killed in campus-related fires, with 87% of them occurring in off-campus occupancies, according to information compiled by Campus Firewatch. 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, and the lowest number last academic year with four fire deaths. Off-campus housing is still the greatest risk where over four out of five fire deaths have occurred since 2000. 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.

Since 2000, there has been a definite downward trend to campus-related fire deaths since its peak in 2006-2007 with 20 fatalities, and the lowest number last academic year with four fire deaths. Off-campus housing is still the greatest risk where over four out of five fire deaths have occurred since 2000. 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 and The Alarming Truth.

 Recent Fatal College/University-Related Fires

  • Georgetown University, Washington, DC Nina Brekelmans, a graduate masters student, was killed in an off-campus fire
  • Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky Tyler English, a sophomore, was killed in an off-campus fire
  • Albright College, Reading, Pennsylvania  Matt Rien, 19, a sophomore, was killed in an off-campus house
  • Mitchell Technical Institute/Mitchell, South Dakota Tylor Kostrzewski was killed in an off-campus fire
  • Purdue University/West Lafayette, IN One 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.