Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


MFD: be wary of winter fires

In less than three weeks, two fatalities occurred in Madison due to fires, and the Madison Fire Department hopes to encourage fire prevention and safety on the dangerous issue.

Fires in the Buena Vista Apartment complex early New Year's Day and the Monticello Apartment complex Jan. 19 each claimed one life.

"It's really unusual for us, and we'll be looking into that pretty closely," said Lori Wirth, an MFD community education officer.


Wirth added having two fires in such a short amount of time is even rarer for the fire department.

"It's frustrating because we need to remind people of the basics," she said.

City fire department public information officer Bernadette Galvez said that in the Jan. 19 fire, the woman who died stayed in her apartment to call 911, but could not escape.

"That's a concern and reminder that you call 911 after you get out," Wirth said. "Get out and stay out."

According to Wirth, the fire department is still investigating the causes of both fires.

Galvez said students on campus should be aware of the recent fires and take precautionary measures to prevent them. Many fires on campus occur due to unattended cooking, smoking materials, candles and even space heaters, she added.

"What we see on college campuses most frequently, with young people, there's a sense of vulnerability," Wirth said.

But a growing concern for the fire department, Galvez said, is student misuse of space heaters as supplementary heating in apartments and houses.

"When people use [space heaters] for supplemental heating, they're in cramped quarters," Wirth said. "All of that is a fire waiting to happen."

Wirth said she witnessed a space heater fire Dec. 22, which cost $100,000 in damage to a Madison home.

"Having been to that fire, I remember [the heater was in] close quarters," she said. "It's really important to keep space around them … and if you leave the room, turn it off."

Bob Stoffs, community services manager at Madison Gas and Electric, said students do not usually save money using space heaters as an alternate to natural gas heating.

"The City of Madison considers [space heaters] to be used only for emergency purposes," he said. "It's pretty difficult to save money like that."

Stoffs said using natural gas for heating an apartment typically costs half the estimated $44 dollars to run a standard 1,500-watt space heater.

Beyond space heaters, another issue regarding students that concerns the fire department is the lackadaisical attitude of students during dormitory fire drills, according to Galvez.

"There are too many people on campus dying that don't need to," she said. "Students really need to pay attention to smoke detectors, and you can get fined for tampering with them."

University of Wisconsin sophomore Lindsey Nor, a Witte Hall resident, agreed students do not take fire drills seriously.

"Most of the time last year, we had so many that some people just wanted to stay in," she commented. "Especially living in a big dorm like this, you never know."

Nor — who lives on the 10th floor — said evacuation of the dorm takes nearly five minutes.

"I don't take it as a joke. I'm out as fast as I can," she said. "It's something students need to take seriously."

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