USA reports that 54 college students have been killed in off-campus fires since 2000. Though such devastating fires are infrequent, they follow patterns that largely are preventable. Most occurred in older, off-campus dwelling; often the students involved had been partying and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol; the fires typically were intentionally set, and students often had disabled the smoke alarms that might have heralded the danger.
“These factors are there time and time again,” says Ed Comeau, director of the Center for Campus Fire Safety, a Massachusetts-based non-profit group. Thirty-nine of 43 fires since 2000 that killed college students erupted in off-campus housing. One-quarter of these fires followed a party, and in 59% of them, at least one of the dead students had been drinking. In 21 cases in which an autopsy report showed the deceased’s blood alcohol content, the median level was .12%, and the highest was .304%.