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For Immediate Release

Ed Comeau, Publisher
Campus Firewatch

Lowest year on record for fatal campus-related fires

Belchertown, Mass. (August 8, 2014) The 2013-14 academic year, with four campus-related fire deaths, is the lowest one on record since 2000, according to information compiled by Campus Firewatch (  During that period of time, there have been a total of 166 people killed in campus-related fires, and the previous low was five fire deaths in 2009-2010.  With the exception of the two years of 2006-2007 (20) and 2007-2008 (18), fire deaths have clearly been on a downward trend.

Approximately 2/3 of the students across the nation live off-campus, which is also where four out of five people die in these fires, and all of the deaths last year were in off-campus houses. Much of the success in the improving picture can be attributed to the efforts of campuses and universities in making students and parents more aware of the dangers and their personal responsibility.  Choosing fire-safe housing and making sure that it is equipped with working photoelectric smoke alarms, knowing how to prevent the most common cause of fatal fires, which is smoking materials, and knowing two ways out are three vital steps to help reduce the loss of life and injuries.

It is important to continue these efforts as students are returning for a new school year. What they learn about fire safety while in college are lessons that will not only protect them during their academic careers, but are also lessons for life. Through a shared responsibility between the schools, communities and students, when it comes to fire safety, it can be possible to make this new school year an even safer one.

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 short films The Alarming Truth and 9 Fires.

Campus Firewatch is a social enterprise focusing on campus fire safety that was started in 2000. For more information, visit our website at


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Recent Fatal Campus-Related Fires

  • 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.