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Candles, heaters warm students; can pose risk

With snow and freezing rain falling in Columbus, the Ohio Department of Commerce is warning students about possible fire risks, such as candles.

The Lantern reported about a duplex fire at 91-93 W. Northwood Ave. in the early morning of Jan. 17 that left residents out in the cold and belongings charred.

Columbus Division of Fire Battalion Chief David Whiting said the cause of the fire was a candle.

“Ohio’s college students need to be aware that fire can strike anywhere at any time and they must be prepared,” said Donald Cooper, interim state fire marshal.

Cooper said missing or disabled smoke alarms, careless disposal of smoking materials and impaired judgment from alcohol consumption are all common causes for campus-area fires.

“The use of candles, heating sources and makeshift cooking methods can significantly increase the chances of a fire occurring,” Cooper said.

Cooper’s office said when using space heaters to follow all written instruction, keep combustible objects at least three feet away and never attach a heater to an unsafe electrical cable.

“My roommate almost started a fire last year using space heaters,” said Kyle Smith, a third-year in sociology. “We had too many blankets in front of the heater.”

According to statistics provided by Ohio Department of Commerce spokesman Dennis Ginty, there have been 140 campus-related fire fatalities nationwide since January 2000 and more than 85 percent of them occurred in off-campus housing.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency’s website, from 2003 to 2006, $29.4 million in property damage was incurred in college housing fires.

Cooper’s office advised students to look out for frayed or cracked extension or power cords and exposed outlets or wiring. College housing can be especially susceptible to fire since the student population in these areas is dense.

“Practicing fire safety at all times, whether in dormitories or off-campus housing, can mean the difference between life and death,” Cooper said.


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