They dubbed it “Burn It and They Will Come,” and come they did. Between 200 and 300 William Woods University students turned up to watch the Fulton Fire Department torch a fully furnished mock residence hall room today.
Aimed at showing how quickly a room can go up in flames, the demonstration was a joint project of WWU and the fire department.
Mike Wills, WWU director of residential life and campus safety, believes that William Woods has been doing a good job of fire safety, with specialized training for students and staff in firefighting and emergency evacuation.
Despite their efforts, Wills said, “Fire safety remains a challenge for universities. You’re always looking for ways to keep it fresh and make an impact so students remember what to do.”
Wills attended an Association of College and University Housing Officers-International conference in Florida in June and returned with an idea borrowed from Syracuse University.
“They did a live burn demonstration on their campus and they talked about how successful it was. They showed the students just how fast a room burns, what it looks like and what it feels like.”
Representatives from Syracuse shared everything, including a list of materials needed. Mid-City Lumber in Fulton donated the supplies to build the 10 x 8 mock residence hall room for William Woods. Engineer Todd Gray of the Fulton Fire Department constructed it.
The live burn did not focus on the ignition (such as a candle, overloaded circuits, frayed extension cord, halogen lamp, plug-in air freshener, space heater or cigarette), but rather on what Wills called “the reality of the result.”
“We wanted this to be more of a hands-on experience,” Gray said. “We wanted them to see and feel the heat it gives off.”
Wills added, “Showing them what it will do to their room will form a lasting memory. That memory will mean more than words on paper—that memory will serve them later should they ever find themselves in such a situation on or off campus.”