Butler University urges fire safety for students

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Alarming statistics involving college students and deadly fires have sparked a push for fire safety in off-campus housing.

For Fire Prevention Month in Indianapolis, firefighters teamed up with Butler University, local landlords and the Kidde smoke alarm company, to protect students.

Butler senior Miranda Crain brought a unique sense of safety when she came to college.
Years ago, her family lost their home to fire.

"It burned all the way down. They lost everything. There's no baby pictures of me from under eight months," Crain said. "So in college, certain people bring different things from their past and that keeps everybody safe, I think."

But awareness of fire dangers isn't as common for most students living off-campus.

"Students will just take smoke detectors down off the walls and also they don't check them. They don't change the batteries," said Indianapolis Fire Department Battalion Chief Courtney Gordon.

That's why Butler University and Indianapolis firefighters were on a mission Thursday, going door to door, passing out and installing hundreds of smoke detectors.

Statistics on fire deaths near college campuses are alarming.

More than two-thirds of student-related fires happen in off-campus housing. Since the 2000 academic year, 120 students have died nationwide in fires, most of them off-campus.

Flames engulfed a home near Butler's campus last December. Luckily, those students made it out okay.

But in Bloomington two years ago, a student died in an off-campus apartment fire.

Investigators said the batteries had been removed from the smoke detector in her apartment the night before that deadly fire.

"Smoke detectors, along with a fire escape plan save lives. We know that. It's a fact," Gordon said. "That's our message. We just want to make sure kids have a chance in the event there's a fire in their home."

The biggest dangers for college students are cooking, electrical problems, candles and discarded cigarettes.

So fire crews are trying to educate students, too. They know students like Miranda Cain are rare.

"I don't think anyone else even worries about it maybe as much as I do. I send out the text to my roommates - check the smoke alarm," she said.

It's an important reminder fire crews are trying to spread for students' home away from home.
It's also something they say applies to more than college kids.

Firefighters recommend everyone check their smoke alarms monthly and replace any that are more than ten years old.