BU Today

Health & Wellness

Deadly Apartment Fires Prompt Prevention Campaign

Three-part plan calls for immediate inspections, discussions, and Web site

In the wake of two deadly off-campus fires in student-occupied apartments, Boston University officials have launched a three-part fire prevention and education initiative that will start with immediate inspections of all University buildings to make sure all fire systems are in perfect working order. Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore said residence life staff and campus health and safety officials have been instructed to develop new forums at which all Boston University students can discuss personal safety in all social environments, and that the third component of the campaign, a Web site about fire safety and prevention, would be launched in the next few weeks, as part of a special effort to educate students living off-campus.

On Sunday, Elmore and University President Robert A. Brown sent an e-mail message to all students, reporting on the death of Derek Crowl, a 19-year-old student from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania who was visiting friends at an apartment at 49 St. Mary’s St., in Brookline. Crowl died when an early-morning fire swept through the third floor apartment. Brookline fire officials said the cause of the blaze has yet to be determined, but they suspect that it started from embers in a charcoal grill that was left unattended on the back porch of the third-floor apartment. Three weeks earlier, on February 24, two Boston University students died in a fire in an off-campus apartment at 21 Aberdeen St. in the Fenway. That fire, which is believed to have started from a candle that was left burning while the students slept, seriously injured a third BU student.

“Our campus has experienced too many tragedies of late,” wrote Brown and Elmore. “It’s true that the fires were accidental, but it is important that we not retreat to business-as-usual when it comes to matters of personal safety.”

The message advised students that administrators and campus services were “reaching out to members of the BU family who were displaced or otherwise affected by the fire, and providing them the material and spiritual support they need.”  

Elmore told BU Today that his staff had spent much of the last three weeks helping students who were affected by the first fire to cope. “What we need to do going forward,” he said, “is get students to start asking the questions that should be asked when they decide to set up their own household so we know they have the knowledge they need to live safely. There are certain questions that they should always know the answers to wherever they are. They need to know, ‘How do I get in and out of a place? Where do I go for help if something goes wrong?’”

Elmore said he would make special efforts to reach students living off campus and encourage them to talk to each other and make sure they get information they need to live safely. Those efforts, he said, would include a new Web site with information about fire safety and prevention.

Elmore said his office had provided all of the 19 students who had been displaced by the St. Mary’s Street fire with temporary lodgings, and was working to find permanent housing. 

University officials said counseling services are available through the Behavioral Medicine Clinic at Student Health Services. Students may speak with a member of the counseling staff by calling 617-353-3569 or by going to 881 Commonwealth Avenue. Residence hall directors and resident assistants from the Office of Residence Life are also available at all campus residences, and can be contacted by calling or visiting a residence hall office.

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.