Controlled Fire

The Hamilton Fire Department held a demonstration to educate students on the importance of fire prevention.

On Wednesday, April 24, the Hamilton Fire Department volunteers held a fire demonstration on the academic quad to display the rapid effects that fires can have in residential buildings on campus.

The annual demonstration usually takes place at the beginning of the school year in October, but Colgate’s emergency management department ultimately decided that having the display in the spring would be more beneficial for the student body. The demonstration consisted of a hollow wooden box on the academic quad with a couch inside. The couch was lit on fire to show how rapid a fire can spread in such a short period of time.

Fire Safety and Emergency Preparedness Manager Gary Bridge explained the decision behind holding the fire safety demonstration later in the year.

“This year we noticed an increase in the number of fire safety violations from fall semester to spring semester,” Bridge said. “The increase was noticed as we track violations for covered smoke detectors, smoking in a building, failure to evacuate and obstructed egress.”

According to Bridge, Campus Fire Watch, the national organization that specializes in improving fire safety across college campuses, has identified 175 student deaths across the country since 2000 in incidents related to fire.

Bridge said that the Emergency Management Department at Colgate is taking proactive measures and staying prepared to make sure these statistics remain on a downward trend.

“The goal of this demonstration is to be an educational tool highlighting the importance of fire prevention strategies, detection devices and immediate evacuation during a fire event,” Bridge said. “Fire can double in size every 30 seconds—seeing how fast the fire grows and feeling the heat makes this a very impactful demonstration.”

First-year Kylie Greer, a student-volunteer for the Hamilton Fire Department, narrated the demonstration.

Greer said she got involved with volunteering for the fire department because she wanted to make a positive impact on the Hamilton community and contribute to combatting the devastation that fire can have on people.

“The demonstration is a light-hearted way to portray a heavy subject, and I hope students realize that something catching fire in a dorm is easier and more serious than they might think,” Greer said.

Greer said she valued the demonstration because it provided a visual of how fast a fire can get extremely severe.

“I think it was important to show that every second counts in a fire because they become life-threatening much more quickly than people realize. You need to get out of the building as fast as you can, and many of us don’t realize how rapidly a room can become fully involved with fire,” Greer said.

Bridge said there have been four high-safety fire violations this year. 

“These four fire safety violations have been identified as high priority,” Bridge said.

Students who are cited by fire safety are required to attend fire safety training.

“We have implemented required fire safety training for those who have been cited,” Bridge said. “We hold fire safety training sessions on a weekly basis and also offer the mock residential room fire demonstration as an alternative to attending these trainings.”

Contact Nick Francoeur at nfrancoeur@colgate.edu

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