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In Wake of Fire, Safety Tips You Need to Know

Eight BU students displaced in Brookline blaze


In the wake of a blaze in a Brookline apartment building that displaced eight Boston University students last week, campus and local fire officials are offering important reminders on how to prevent and safely escape residential fires.

The fire at 46 Carlton Street was reported at 10:28 a.m. on Sunday, February 3, by a resident after smoke triggered the building’s smoke alarms, according to Mark Jefferson, deputy chief of the Brookline Fire Department. The fire, which caused water damage to the first floor and basement of the three-story building, was caused by an improperly wired, unvented ceiling fan in the second floor bathroom, according to an incident report. There were no injuries in the single-alarm fire, which spread to the second-floor ceiling.

None of the students, whose identities were not released because of privacy concerns, will be able to return to the building for the foreseeable future, according to Katherine Hasenauer Cornetta, a spokesperson from the Dean of Students office. A BU official has reached out to each student to help find accommodations on and off campus, as well as to help notify faculty about any fire-related academic hardships, Cornetta says.

“I talked to the building manager to inform her that all alarms have to be restored before anyone can reoccupy the building,” says Jefferson. But he says that according to the report, after smelling smoke and hearing the alarms, the first call placed was to the building manager, followed by a call to the fire department.

“Always call the fire department first,” advises Jefferson, and then evacuate the building immediately. He recommends that residents of apartment buildings develop their own evacuation plans. “Motels and hotels are required to post these plans, but in residential buildings it’s something you’ve got to do on your own,” he says, adding that anyone can seek the department’s help and advice developing evacuation plans by calling the fire prevention line at 617-730-2266. For students living off campus, he says, “the best protection comes from properly placed and maintained smoke detectors.” Although all buildings are required by state law to have these, students should check to see that the alarms are working, he says, and insist that their landlords replace them if they are not.

Kenneth Elmore, dean of students, is urging students on campus and off to take stock of their surroundings and brush up on fire safety. “Now is a great time to go home and take the time to look at your living space, and make sure things like smoke detectors are working, that you have clear ways out of the building,” says Elmore (SED’87). “If you live off campus, it might be a good time to check in with the owner of your building. And when you go to visit places, take a measure of how you can get out in an emergency, whether it is an auditorium, a classroom, or a friend’s apartment.”

BU’s safety website lists the University’s fire safety regulations and questions to ask landlords if you’re renting an off-campus apartment, including whether the unit has a smoke alarm and whether there is access to more than one exit. 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

The city of Boston also offers an informative home fire safety website. Among the tips:

  • Make sure smoke detectors are outside of each separate sleeping area
  • Make sure carbon monoxide detectors are on each level of your home
  • Test and check batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace them if you’re not certain they are fully charged.
  • Hold a home fire drill to practice an escape plan
  • Avoid using a gas stove or oven for heat to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.



2 Comments on In Wake of Fire, Safety Tips You Need to Know

  • Donna July on 02.13.2013 at 8:23 am

    The building should have its own incident command system to be able to address the fire incident correctly and never leaving behind anyone in the building. Some fires can be put off by the people living in it through the use of fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems.

  • Sally Osman on 03.12.2013 at 10:49 am

    Fire alarms should be checked around once a week. If people just start to make it part of their Sunday routine or whatever it could seriously save lives. It takes about 3 seconds! And I completely second the point about taking all alarms seriously. Don’t just assume its a drill. One day it won’t be.

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