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Students Evacuated After Saturday Fire

Buswell Street blaze sparked by ashes left in garbage can


More than 30 students were forced to evacuate their dorm at 6 Buswell St. on Saturday morning after a fire, apparently caused by smoking residue left in a garbage can, broke out in the residence hall. No one was injured during the incident.

The fire, reported to the Boston University Police Department at approximately 3:30 a.m., started after a student emptied the ashes from a hookah pipe into the garbage can in his room. The student then left the top-floor apartment, according to the police report; one of his roommates woke several hours later when he smelled smoke.

Most of the residents returned to the building after the fire was extinguished; the four residents of the apartment affected were relocated by the Residence Life staff. The room where the fire started sustained smoke and water damage.

“As a community, we were fortunate — I am pleased that there were no injuries or widespread damage,” says Kenneth Elmore, the dean of students. “I am also impressed by the quick reaction of our staff and local authorities, as well as the students at 6 Buswell St. who quickly got themselves out of the building and looked after one another by knocking on doors to alert each other of the danger. But we should all use this unfortunate moment to take the time to reread information about fire safety and to consider changing any personal habits and behavior that is unsafe.”

At least three other fires have occurred in student housing this academic year, all caused by careless behavior: one started when clothes draped over a lamp began to smolder, while another was sparked when students forgot to turn off their oven before heading out on a Friday night. Elmore and BU Police Chief Thomas Robbins held a town hall meeting earlier this month to discuss fire safety with students.

“We’re asking people to be more aware, to pay attention, and to be more careful,” said Robbins. “The main thing is that we want to avoid a tragedy.”

Elmore says that the residents of Buswell Street were very lucky to have avoided injury during Saturday’s fire, and he urges students to be more careful.

“As far as fire and personal safety within this community,” he says, “rather than rely solely on grace, I prefer we rely on what we can control: thoughtful, responsible, daily personal actions.”

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.


8 Comments on Students Evacuated After Saturday Fire

  • Anonymous on 02.23.2009 at 8:55 am

    Dean Elmore you rock!

  • Anonymous on 02.23.2009 at 10:56 am

    Are there some basic guidelines to students about the common causes of house-fires? I wonder how many of them actually realize that a light-bulb is hot enough to set alight to anything that remains within a short distance of it, or touches it? Or the kind of distance there has to be above a candle flame for it to be safe? Or the risks from irons, hair-dryers, etc. if put down hot on the wrong surfaces (even if turned off)? An obligatory video of some of these things, together with interviews with students who either caused or immediately witnessed dorm fires, might be something BU ought to show all new students. I know when I was a student I had no idea that light-bulbs were a serious fire hazard if clothing (e.g. hanging on a rail nearby) came too close.

  • Daniel Shark on 02.23.2009 at 10:57 am

    Fire Extinguishers

    Maybe BU should stop talking about student’s careless behavior and start correcting its own. It took me 4 months last year to get my fire extinguisher filled, after filing several maintenance requests and an eventual letter to the dean. You shouldn’t need to write to Dean Elmore to get this school do to its job and fill up a fire extinguisher. My friends are having the same problem now, right upstairs from me, so clearly it wasn’t just a BU one-time screw up. For all BU says about its fire policy, it really just doesn’t care.

  • Anonymous on 02.23.2009 at 12:13 pm

    It’s true, for all the talk, BU doesn’t do enough. My Buswell building has no working lights in the rear stairwell / fire exit. I’ve reported it twice and nothing was fixed. Considering it’s illegal, perhaps a call to the city and a fine would get BU to follow the law.

  • Anonymous on 02.23.2009 at 12:43 pm


    You’ve gotta be kidding me. BU is a good school. Its students are known for being very smart. WTF. Light bulbs and ovens? How absent from reality do you have to be?

    I thought hookahs weren’t allowed in the first place? There’s a reason the school has rules like this. It’s going to be a big deal if you burn down a townhouse on Buswell. A lot of students are going to lose all their crap. The school is going to have to rebuild and reimburse. You could burn down all of Buswell if you’re not careful.

    And I agree with the poster that was talking about BU doing better work for fire safety, too. Empty fire extinguishers are really useful if you plan to throw them at a flame in an effort to extinguish it.


  • Anonymous on 02.24.2009 at 7:16 am


    I am sorry but shouldn’t college students know what causes small house fires and why should it be left up to the university to teach them? I mean come on now, these are adults we are talking about here, not children. When are these students going to start taking more responsibility for their own actions and start paying closer attention to what they are doing?

  • Anonymous on 02.24.2009 at 7:17 pm


    Note that this was put up in October, 2007. Best quote: “If everyone took a couple of seconds to think….” Yeah, huh?
    Maybe BU needs to do this every year. And here’s a basic rule of thumb for those that missed that pesky fire safety talk in 3rd grade: if it’s too hot for you to touch, it’s too hot for anything to touch it. Simple enough? This ain’t rocket science!

  • Anonymous on 02.24.2009 at 7:24 pm



    It’s not like the info isn’t out there.

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