by Claudia Brunson
Recently a student residing in Goodman Hall experienced a fright when a fire started in her room from a lit candle sitting on her desk. The minor fire started when a baseball cap that was hanging above the lit candle fell into the flame and caught fire. The student then tried to rush the baseball cap to the sink to put the blaze out, but in the process caused further damage to personal belongings and the room.
Director of Campus Safety John Conway spoke on the issue and credits the Jackson Fire Department in the Millsaps neighborhood with a rapid response.
“The student called campus security and it was reported that she called 911,” Conway said. “Our Jackson Fire Department dispatched to the scene and they were here in about three minutes, it was really darn quick.”
The most significant damage done to the apartment-style building was smoke damage and scarring on the floors and the walls from the fire.
“…No part of the apartment room itself caught on fire, meaning that the walls did not catch on fire [and] the furniture did not catch on fire either,” Conway said. “The things that were on fire were the hat and the towels, so that was good. But there is pretty significant scarring, so the walls were pretty damaged […] where the fire the fire started. There will probably be pretty significant smoke damage to most of the stuff in the room. The walls themselves are going to have to be repainted and a couple of things are going to have to be rewired because of the wiring panels that were in that area were a little bit damaged… so it is pretty significant. I think that it is going to run into the thousands of dollars.”
Conway could not speak on whether or not the student will finically be responsible for the damage done to the room; that will be left to the residence hall staff. However, Conway does know that, generally in the past, students that have been negligent and have caused damage have traditionally been held responsible for repairs.
There are numerous precautions that campus security and residence hall staff takes to keep everyone safe on campus, including preventing certain appliances from being allowed in the dorms. For example, cooking appliances with exposed heating elements are prohibited in all dorms, as well as candles and forensic lights. A list of prohibited appliances can be found on Millsaps’ College website under Student Life.
Conway coordinates a fire safety workshop with the residence assistants, which the Jackson Fire Department attends. In this workshop, Conway teaches RAs about fire safety and how to properly work a fire extinguisher. Mock fires are on hand for practice.
Millsaps College’s official policy is to make it a priority for everyone to have comfortable living quarters to work and play in together. For this reason, all of the Residence Halls are smoke free, and pets are prohibited as well. For fire safety and knowledge, the resident assistants typically have fire drills in the fall and spring so that students can know the proper steps and precautions if ever presented with a fire.