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Experts Warn Of Fire Dangers As Universities Start New Year

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RALEIGH, N.C. — As college classes get under way this week, thousands of students are settling into new living quarters. Now there's a new initiative to keep them safe from deadly fires.

August and September are two of the deadlier months for campus-related fires, and North Carolina ranks second highest in fire deaths in the nation.

In October 2005, a duplex full of North Carolina State University fraternity brothers caught fire during early-morning hours. Fire crews got there fast, but not fast enough.

"Some of the smoke detectors weren't functioning because they weren't tested," said survivor Mike Haggerty.

The faulty smoke detectors were amongst the reasons that Mark Brandon Davis, Cody Pilkington, and the fraternity mascot, Roxy the Dog, didn't make it out alive. The Sigma Alpha Mu brothers were two of 89 college students nationwide who died in fires last year.

"An average of once a month, we are losing a student on campus somewhere in this nation to fires," said national fire safety expert Ed Commeau.

Commeau is spreading the word about fire risks that come with students living on their own at college.

"What we really ask parents to do is keep fire safety in mind when they are sending their students back to school," he said.

Experts said the top two things a student should have is a working smoke detector and a fire extinguisher. They're inexpensive safety devices that could save a life.

The Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity now has a new house equipped with smoke detectors they test monthly, fire extinguishers and ladders on the second floor. Safety now comes first -- a lesson that the fraternity learned the hard way.


Mark Simpson, Photographer
Dana Franks, Web Editor

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