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Allston Blaze Sends Seven Students to Hospital

Newly installed smoke alarm wakes residents to flames


One BU student is in critical condition after leaping from the second floor of a burning Allston apartment early yesterday morning and six others were taken to area hospitals, where they were treated for smoke inhalation and other injuries. Boston Fire Department spokesperson Stephen MacDonald says that more than 60 firefighters battled the fire at 84 Linden Street in frigid 18 degree weather. MacDonald says the fire, which destroyed the off-campus building occupied by seven members of the BU chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu, was reported shortly after 7 a.m. and that the cause of the fire is under investigation. Authorities say there is no evidence that the blaze is related to a recent string of vehicle arsons on Allston streets.

Alex Epner (COM’13), who was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital and released, says the students in the building were awakened by smoke alarms that had been installed last semester.

BU Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore (SED’87) says he hopes that all University students will note that a working smoke alarm may have saved the lives of the Linden Street residents, and will take the time to check their own fire safety equipment. He says the University has offered temporary housing and meals to students displaced by the blaze.

Boston Fire Department Engine 51, 84 Linden Street, Allston, MA fire January 22, 2012

Photo courtesy of the Boston Fire Department

The Boston Globe reports that witnesses saw two people leap from the second floor, one man, who lay motionless on the ground, and one woman, who landed in the arms of a man wearing boxer shorts. By midday, long icicles hung from charred beams of the house, which was largely burned out. MacDonald estimates the damage at $500,000.

BU Police Chief Thomas Robbins says his department received a call from a parent of one of the students in the apartment, whose first response was to call home. Robbins says he hopes that students learn to make their first and immediate call to 911 or to the BUPD at 617-353-2121. “We’ve got to get our number on the students’ radar,” he says. “It’s great that this person called a parent, but people in danger should call us first, then call a parent.”

Sigma Alpha Mu president Jake Magid (CAS’13) says the Linden Street apartment was not officially associated with the fraternity, but was occupied by several Sigma Alpha Mu brothers. Magid says he has no idea what caused the fire. “I can guarantee there was no one awake at seven in the morning,” he says.

Boston Fire Department, damage at 84 Linden Street, Allston, MA fire January 22, 2012

Photo courtesy of the Boston Fire Department

Yesterday’s fire comes on the heels of a four-alarm fire in Brookline last Monday that left 10 School of Law students homeless. Those students have found shelter with help from BU and others.

The Brookline blaze prompted University officials to remind students about fire safety precautions, as outlined on a University website. “The University’s interest is, let’s all be proactive,” says Elmore. Especially for students living off-campus in non-University apartments, he says, “make sure you understand how to get in and out of the spaces where you live,” and be sure those spaces have working smoke detectors. (Fire officials recommend changing the batteries in smoke detectors every six months.)

BU’s safety website lists the University’s fire safety regulations and a list of questions to ask landlords if you’re renting an off-campus apartment. Among the site’s tips:

  • Avoid starting open flames, especially candles, which among college students are the top fire-starter
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy
  • Plot escape routes in case of fire and keep them clear of debris
  • When an alarm sounds, take it seriously.
Art Jahnke

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

38 Comments on Allston Blaze Sends Seven Students to Hospital

  • Astrid on 01.23.2012 at 12:38 am

    I saw this from my bedroom since I leave two blocks away and I could see the crazy flame. I really hope that everyone is okay and things will get better. This is the second time in my life I have ever seen flame this huge very close. Very scary indeed!

  • Just Considerned on 01.23.2012 at 9:12 am

    Maybe we should consider putting water spinklers in all off campsu housing.
    also appoint fire marshalls in each appartment to make sure everyone is out safely and have a common meeting area.

    • R on 01.23.2012 at 11:46 am

      I don’t think the university can control non-BU housing…so they can’t put sprinkles in buildings they don’t own and operate…

  • concerned on 01.23.2012 at 9:42 am

    With many frat parties happening in the basements, we really have to question safety. How many exits are there? Clearly marked? Dim lights. Intoxicated students. This is a recipe for disaster. Campus security should be proactive. Fire kills.

    • Really? on 01.23.2012 at 11:10 am

      @concerned, there is nothing to say this was any way related to a frat party. Why would you even consider linking the two? Check you facts next time before posting defamatory remarks toward the Greek system.

      • Captain Obvious on 01.23.2012 at 11:25 am

        Yea there’s really no need to post inflamatory remarks directed at the frats. Its already enough that they’re unimaginative chimpanzees. No need to rub it in.

        • Nick on 01.23.2012 at 12:46 pm

          THat’s really out of line. I’m not even in the Greek System but it’s bs how people constantly seek to slander them every time the word “fraternity” is even cited in an article. Grow up.

          • greek on 01.23.2012 at 3:58 pm

            I would like to make clear that the Greek community at Boston University has responded in such an amazing way to this situation, and has done more and offerred to do more than anyone could ever want. It’s times like these where people need to realize what makes the Greek system unique and how in times of need, we will all come together and help one another as much as we possibly can. Fires happen everywhere and so many people lose everything because of them. These gentlemen lost everything they had but more than anything are so grateful to still have each other – they realize what’s important.

          • a on 01.26.2012 at 4:49 pm

            @greek, I’m glad there’s no room for false modesty here. You think you’re amazing, you say it. nb

  • Grace on 01.23.2012 at 9:51 am

    Quick recovery to all the wounded.

  • Peggy on 01.23.2012 at 9:51 am

    Three students at Marist College in NY were not so fortunate. Their off-campus house caught fire early Sunday morning also, but they were not able to escape. As a volunteer fire fighter, I urge all students to heed the advice in this article and also hold practice drills whenever you first move into a new residence.

  • BU Parent X 2 on 01.23.2012 at 1:22 pm

    Does anybody know the current condition of the injured students? How is the student that was initially listed as Critical?

  • Collin on 01.23.2012 at 2:44 pm

    I lived in this house for a year in 2007 with my 6 friends.. My room was in the attic and I used to think this would be a tough house to get out of with a fire.. I hope all the guys are alright

    • Ethan on 01.23.2012 at 6:00 pm

      I second that, Collin…

  • laura Truex on 01.23.2012 at 6:47 pm

    who calls home before they call 911? really?

    • Filioque on 01.24.2012 at 8:34 am

      Someone who hasn’t been raised with any measure of self-reliance or independence, that’s who. In other words….the majority of college students these days, unfortunately.

      • not nice on 01.26.2012 at 12:09 am

        excuse you but maybe someone who thought they may not make it out alive wanted to call their family to tell them before they heard about it from a police officer. BU students have not typically “not been raised with any measure of self-reliance or independence” watch what you say on the internet before you say it. people were seriously injured in this fire and this is no place to diss the actions of a young student in a dangerous situation.

        • Filioque on 01.26.2012 at 8:34 am

          If my children were in a fire, I would want them to call the authorities to try and save themselves–and the others with them–long before calling me. At least then I would know they did everything they could to help themselves and others. I’m sorry if my assessment of modern parenting is offensive to you, but I didn’t write it to “diss” a college student. I wrote it to show what happens when parents raise children who can’t solve their own problems.

  • Ed on 01.23.2012 at 11:35 pm

    The BUPD police chief really needs to get a grip on reality. Linden Street is not part of BU property, it is part of the City of Boston, and as such, does not concern BUPD. Making a statement that students should be calling the BUPD for emergencies that occur off campus is nothing short of an attempt to subvert the 9-1-1 system. The only thing that calling them does is delay the response of appropriate emergency services, as once BUPD gets the correct information, they have to give it to 9-1-1. All this does is increase the potential that information will get confused during the relay of information.

    • BU RA on 01.24.2012 at 9:08 am

      BUPD isn’t trying to “subvert the 911 system”. We learned in RA training that calling 911 on a cell phone goes to call centers from the area code that the cell phone is from. This means that 80% of BU students would be calling 911 elsewhere in the country, obviously delaying their ability to help. BUPD has an extremely quick response time and should be the first emergency call for BU students, on and off campus.

      • Beth on 01.24.2012 at 10:40 am

        Your RA training is 100% wrong, and this is very VERY serious. I certainly hope you contact someone and get the correct information out there.

        A call from a cell phone to 911 goes to the nearest tower (usually)and then is routed to the NEAREST Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP, which is a fancy way of saying 911 Center) to the PHONE. It is never EVER based on the area code of the phone, and the fact that this misinformation is out there is truly terrifying.

        What a failure the 911 system would be if your assertion were true.

      • Ed on 01.24.2012 at 6:57 pm

        It’s pointed out above that your information is wrong, but the rest of that reply doesn’t contain accurate information. When you call 9-1-1 from a cell phone in Massachusetts, it is routed to the State Police in Framingham, who have the ability to transfer the call directly to any city or town in the state once they have determined the jurisdiction. When that call is transferred, it also transfers the phone number, closest cell tower, and GPS info of the phone, allowing a 9-1-1 operator to obtain a position on a map that is usually within 300 feet of where the caller is. If they call BUPD, which is NOT an authorized Public Safety Answering Point in Massachusetts, none of the data associated with the phone is transferred, as it’s just a regular phone call. 9-1-1 is designed to get information to get responders to the scene. Anyone who says to call them instead of 9-1-1 IS subverting the system.

        • Beth on 01.25.2012 at 4:43 pm

          Regardless of whether or not the data associated with the phone transfers, the fact remains. If I am a student at BU, and I’m from Wisconsin and my cell phone has a Wisconson area code, the call does not go to a Wisconsin PSAP when I call 911. BU should not be telling RAs, or anyone else, that this is the case.

    • Matty B on 01.24.2012 at 11:26 am

      BUPD are really bored, and just want some calls to respond too. Their way bigger dicks then Boston / Brookline cops. They kind of hall that “mall cop” inferiority complex.

      • Allison on 01.24.2012 at 1:00 pm

        I shudder to think that a student at Boston University (which I am fervently hoping you are not) doesn’t know the difference between too and to, and their and they’re.

  • Greek2 on 01.24.2012 at 1:09 am

    They DID have a party the night before. Facts? I tried to go to it. I live next door.

    • steve on 01.24.2012 at 5:34 pm


    • Greek3 on 01.24.2012 at 5:49 pm

      I’m pretty sure they didn’t have a party there… and if they did, how does that relate to a fire that started at 7 AM?

  • Bob on 01.24.2012 at 2:12 am

    Your house is on fire, and you call your parents??? This could be the dumbest human being on earth.

  • Bob McClellan on 01.24.2012 at 9:32 am

    Boston doesn’t require multi-unit, commercial buildings to have smoke alarms; welcome to the 1950’s.

  • Matty B on 01.24.2012 at 11:24 am

    This sums up the stereotype of BU students. Clueless, entitled, spoiled rich kids with no clue how to function in the real world. “Mommy, Daddy, there’s a fire, can you pay someone to make it go away?!?!


    • mr. kabukiman on 01.24.2012 at 2:40 pm

      Pretty much hit the nail on the head with that one.

      • JJ on 01.24.2012 at 5:50 pm

        Matty B why don’t you say your real name so we can talk in person? I have 3 friends still in the hospital right now and the last thing they need is to be incorrectly stereotyped…

        • Guy J. on 01.26.2012 at 12:02 am

          Their actions speak louder than your hollow threat.

  • jackson on 01.24.2012 at 11:29 pm

    Why in the world would the student have called a parent rather than 911 first? That’s ridiculous.

  • AP on 01.25.2012 at 11:39 am

    I’ve been told that the direct number for Boston 911 is 617-343-4911. If you call from a cell phone, that should route you directly to the City of Boston’s 911 Call Center, without going through State Police.

    And I’m not surprised that a kid called their mom instead of 911. When I was a freshman in 2003, our orientation contained reminders to avoid underage drinking, illegal drugs, and to be careful with urban crime and traffic. I was a freshman mentor in 2006, and by then they’d added in warnings about not playing on the frozen Charles River, not playing on train tracks, detailed and explicit directions on how to cross the street, and why you shouldn’t wander around by yourself in the dark with your iPod on. Sadly, in three years, we went from college students acting like dumb college students to college students acting like dumb 6th graders.

    • Ed on 01.25.2012 at 11:34 pm

      Just worth noting, 617-343-4911 is given out as an alternate number. 9-1-1 is still the preferred method. There is no Automatic Number Information, Automatic Location Information or GPS data transferred when you call this number, meaning that if you don’t know where you are, or are unable to speak, the time it will take to get you help will be significantly longer. The system is setup so that people call one number, and a response to the correct location can be initiated based on very little information from the actual caller if necessary.

  • Pam on 04.29.2013 at 1:04 pm

    My son Cody died in a similiar situation eight years ago. Early morning fire, Sigma Alpha Mu affiliation. Unfortunately, there were no smoke alarms on the side of the house he lived in. This event will change lives forever and not for the better. Thankful there were smoke alarms in this case although tragedy still occurred. The best prevention is preparation – smoke alarms and knowing how to get out if a fire occurs. My heart breaks for the family left behind. God bless.

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