Oregon daily emerald. (Eugene, Or.) 1920-2012, October 06, 1980, Page 6 and 7, Image 6

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    Despite University effort
students still complicate
Fire
Prevention
By DOUG BUTLER
Forth* EmtraM
University officials have done everyth
ing in their power to eliminate fire
hazards in dormitories and Greek hous
ing, says a Eugene fire official. But one
hazard remains outside their control —
the students
“Anything we recommend to the
University, they do," says James Jensen,
the Eugene deputy fire marshal in charge
of University fire inspections "They are
probably a leader in the United States in
fire safety. University buildings are 100
percent up to code.”
But the University's efforts have not
eliminated all fires in student housing
On April 5, University sophomore Laurel
Steil died in a fire in the Sigma Alpha
Epsilon fraternity.
Eugene Fire Marshal Dick Christensen
says a smoker's carelessness caused the
tragic fire
"It's a scenario common across the
country," Christensen says. A burning
cigarette dropped into an overstuffed
chair smoldered for more than an hour
before the blaze started
"There is every indication that there
had been a party up there," Christensen
says. "We have reason to believe that the
people involved had been drinking and
smoking
A lot of fire deaths occur in combina
tion with alcohol and cigarettes Alcohol
brings on a deeper sleep It takes a
person awhile to respond
People should take every precaution
against fires if they're drinking and
smoking/'
Since Steil's death the fire department
has not required fraternities or sororities
to make any major changes in their fire
equipment because everything meets
Eugene s fire codes, Christensen says.
We have to draw the line somewhere
as to what's acceptable," he says
Smoking and drinking aren’t the only
fire risks students impose on themselves.
Misuse of firecrackers, hair dryers,
portable space heaters, cigarettes, can
dles, posters and flammable ceiling
decorations near heat sources sparked
nearly all the University's dormitory fires
(all minor) last year.
"Kids throw firecrackers underneath
the doors of vacated rooms and start
fires," Jensen says. “They leave their
hair dryers on in the drawer.”
Sometimes a student will leave an
object in front of an electric space heater
when it is off, but after the student leaves,
the heater automatically will turn itself on
and ignite the object, he said.
The last major fire on campus was in
the early 1970s when someone set fire to
the ROTC building, says a campus of
ficial.
Fire fighters rsreiy battle this hind of blare on campus because of the University's efforts to comnlv vrith sehrer
University officials credit the fire sys
tems, especially the smoke alarms, for
keeping the dormitory fires small.
Photoelectric smoke alarms (which do
not contain radioactive material) have
been placed in every dormitory room,
Jensen says. The alarms sense smoke
soon after a fire has started.
Although it is easy to trigger the sensi
tive alarms, false alarms are illegal.
False alarms not only desensitize re
sidents to real emergency signals, but
they also pose a great danger to the
responding firemen and to motorists who
are in the path of the fire engines.
Two years ago two people were killed
in a head-on collision with a Eugene fire
engine, Jensen says. The fire engine was
responding to a false alarm.
University residents pulled 52 false
alarms last year, and the fire department
picked up eight dormitory residents last
year for initiating false alarms and tam
pering with other fire equipment. “We
pursue this," Jensen says.
Jensen also pursues fire safety on
campus through fire safety talks to dor
mitory resident assistants, University
employees and fraternity and sorority
residents.
Jensen also inspects dormitory fire
alarm systems three times each year and
inspects fraternities and sororities twice
each year. It takes him nine months out
of the year to complete his University
rounds.
Students living in apartments or
houses off campus should make certain
they have a smoke detector in or near
bedrooms, Jensen says, adding that
each room should have two avenues of
escape, and third floor rooms must be
near two stairwells.
Jensen says not all deadbolt locks
found in apartments and houses open
easily in an emergency. Thumb-turn
deadbolt locks are the easiest to use in a
fire, he says.
If a large fire does break out, each
person should leave the building, help
get others out and call the fire depart
ment, Jensen says.
For further information call the Eugene
Fire Prevention Bureau at 687-5417.
City retires old alarms
Ma Bell’s presence in nearly every
home and business in Eugene has
made obsolete yet another marvel of
the mid-1900s.
The Eugene Fire Department is
dismantling nearly all its 150 fire alarm
boxes located on lampposts, telephone
poles and pedestals throughout the
city and will rely strictly on telephones
for fire reporting.
After 31 years the municipal alarm
system has become too expensive and
obsolete because of the wide availabli
ty of telephones, Tim Birr, fire depart
ment spokesman says.
And more than 90 percent of the
alarms turned in through the bright red
boxes are false, he adds.
‘Aside from the cost of fuel and the
wear and tear on equipment, false
alarms delay the engines from re
sponding to other emergency calls,”
Birr says.
r
Birr stresses that removing the
alarms will not hinder rapid responses
to fires. Los Angeles retired a similar
system and markedly reduced false
alarms without experiencing sig
nificant fire-response delays, he says.
"The only areas of concern are the
real industrialized sections of Eugene.
But telephones can be found readily at
nearby 24-hour restaurants."
Fire alarm boxes on the University
campus will not be removed, but the
alarms will be received by campus
security rather than the fire depart
ment, Birr says. Security then will notify
the fire department.
Currently, alarms from the red boxes
on campus are received in every
Eugene fire station. Birr says the
number of false alarms has prompted
officials to limit the number of vehicles
responding to the calls.
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