Fire safety message for college students living off-campus

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- UW-Eau Claire students headed back to class Wednesday, and the fire department has an important safety message.

According to the Center for Campus Fire Safety, 66 percent of college students in the U.S. live off campus. Between 2000 and 2015, there have been 76 off campus fires resulting in 107 student fatalities.

A new sorority house is one of the safest houses in Eau Claire, according to Eau Claire Fire Department Fire Inspector Michael Laska.

"Because it has smoke detectors, heat detectors, emergency lighting in case the power goes out, exit lights, and to top it off it has a sprinkler system," said Inspector Michael Laska.

Laska said sprinklers are the next step in reducing fire fatalities across the country.

"In the U.S., there's no fire death when the building's been sprinkled," said Laska.

Sprinklers keep small fires from spreading or even put them out.
The Delta Zeta members consider themselves lucky to live in a house with the latest fire protection.

"It's definitely nice going to bed at night knowing if anything were to happen we are safe. It's probably the safest house I'll be in for a very long time," said college student Taylor Bednar.

Inspector Laska said unattended cooking is the number one cause of all residential fires. However, smoking, alcohol, and non working smoke detectors are the main causes in fatal fires.

Laska advises students and their parents to pay extra attention to fire safety when living off-campus. Make sure smoke detectors work and that you have a fire extinguisher.

He said when you live in a house with multiple people, invest in good power strips so you don't overload the outlets.

Above all else, never tamper with the smoke detectors. Laska said it's such an important safety issue, you can face a $213.10 cent fine if the fire department finds out.

Michael Laska also recommends students living in rental properties get renter's insurance. The property owner's insurance just covers the building, so tenants are responsible for protecting their own property inside the building.

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