SKC Contributor: Prevent A Dorm Fire

This post comes to us from our friends over at College & Cook Magazine, a brand new publication written by and for college kids who are “tired of being stereotyped by easy mac and cold pizza.” Frankly, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves. This article is from their premiere issue, and it’s a valuable PSA to boot.

Sometimes even the best of college cooks can find their kitchens in flames. If things go awry in your kitchen, would you know what to do? I didn’t.

It was one of those this-only-happens-in-the-movies kind of moments.

During a photoshoot for C&C Mag, a few food-obsessed photographers let food styling get the best of them, forgetting all about the olive oil drizzled croutons “toasting” in the oven.

All of a sudden, amidst prop assembling, the smoke was smelled. Running to the kitchen of a C&C on-campus apartment, we found our once-croutons engulfed in flames.

Yes, this was a C&C photoshoot. Yes, we get the irony.

Mouth gaping, I watched as my friend grabbed his green checkered oven mitt & cracked open the oven. Flames roared at us – I’m not exaggerating here, the scene would’ve made even Jackie Chan proud.

There was a moment of silence. We made eye contact, & wordlessly came up with a plan. I ended up with a fire extinguisher in my hand— & had no clue how to use it. As my friend pried open his little oven once again, I tried to spray out the fire. Nothing happened.

Skimming the extinguisher’s directions, I frantically pulled something, & tah-dah, greenish foam spewed & spewed from the bright red canister. As the flames died down, the entire building sounded in that familiar, irksome eek of an alarm. I should note, it was finals week…our fellow residents were less than thrilled.

Flames safely out, we grabbed our coats & made a run for it. After two fire trucks, an ax, & an army of firemen entered the building, we were turning red,

standing amongst disgruntled dorm residents on a 40 degree day. Embarrassing, eh?

When it was all over, we sheepishly walked back to the room, weary of what was waiting for us. Soot covered everything. Even the bedspreads! Even the doorknobs! The University sent over a kind woman who helped us deal with the damage, & for the next hour we scrubbed, wiped & mopped that soot away.

Don’t fret, C&C readers, we didn’t forget the task at hand – we had a photoshoot to finish! Assembling napoleons, the star of the day’s  shoot,  we decided to gift the sugary sweets to the firemen who’d come to our rescue (conveniently we have a firehouse in the middle of our campus).

Making our last sheepish walk of the day, we knocked on the bulky back door of Engine Company 23, dessert in hand. Making our apologies, we were lucky to snap a photo or two from one of our knights in shining armor, napoleons in-hand!

This fire debacle inspired me to do a bit of research on fires in dorms across the country. Turns out resident hall fires are on the rise – according to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2005 & 2009, U.S. fire departments responded to an an average of 3,840 fires in dormitories, fraternities & sororities. That number has been climbing since 1980, when there were a reported 3,200 dorm fires.

These fires caused an annual average of 3 deaths, 38 injuries, & over $20 million in property damage. Beware, college cooks – cooking equipment was involved in 81 percent of these fires.

The U.S. Fire Administration believes these numbers could decrease if more schools turned to dormitory sprinkler systems, stating in its “Guide for Campus Housing Administrators” that “Ultimately, student-housing administrators need to seriously consider the installation of automatic sprinkler systems in the residential facilities they manage.”

If I learned anything from this fire fiasco, it is the importance of knowing how to use a fire extinguisher. Take a look at the directions on your dorm’s extinguisher – it could be a big help one day. & yes, I know it is incredibly annoying to evacuate your room for what is often a false alarm, but really & truly, you never know when a serious fire could be occurring. Is it really a risk worth taking?

—Audrey Scagnelli for College & Cook

Originally posted on Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

One Response to “SKC Contributor: Prevent A Dorm Fire”

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