Fire safety stressed

Megan Kadrmas

A rental property fire that broke out early Sunday morning left the house uninhabitable and the tenants stunned. Andy Cary, a political science sophomore, was the only one home when the fire started, but was not aware of the blaze until he heard his neighbors shouting.

The tenants of 1117 Eighth St. S.E., all University sophomores, said they had disabled the smoke detectors in the house.

This was a big mistake, which could have cost them a lot more than their house, said Minneapolis Fire Marshal Dave Dewall.

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, about half of home-fire deaths in the United States occur in homes without working smoke detectors.

“When (one of the tenants) realized that the house was on fire, he said he could see the flames. In my opinion, and with my knowledge about fires, that’s almost too late,” Dewall said.

These alarms are important, said Minneapolis Fire Inspections Coordinator Ben Foster, because they can be the first alert of a fire in the house. If a person is sleeping or in a part of the house away from the fire, they might not be aware of the problem until the fire is out of control.

A 2005 report by the National Fire Protection Association said 40 percent of fatal-fire victims never wake up. The probability of not waking up when there is a fire is much greater in homes where the smoke detectors are not working properly or are not present.

Mark Van Cleve is a first-year student and a renter in the Southeast Como neighborhood. He said he knows he has smoke detectors in his house but never has tested them to make sure they work.

“I think that what happened on Sunday is proof that students don’t know enough about the importance of smoke alarms or the dangers of not knowing if they work,” Van Cleve said.

Foster agreed and said people seem to have a mentality that a house fire will never happen to them.

Another problem, according to Foster and Dewall, occurs when batteries are removed from the smoke detector units, as in Sunday’s incident.

“I know people who have taken the batteries out of their fire detectors because they want to smoke in their home or because the alarm goes off a lot when food gets burnt,” Van Cleve said.

Dewall and Foster, who recognize why people disable their smoke detectors, think newer technology holds the solution.

“There are detectors on the market today, and not very expensive ones, which have a button that you can push to silence a false alarm,” Dewall said.

“At least remember to replace the batteries after you are done doing whatever activity (the batteries were taken out for)” if buying a new detector is not an option, he said.

Ty Cullen, a political science sophomore who lives near the home where Sunday’s fire occurred, and saw the blaze, said watching the house burn taught him a lesson.

“Just looking at the situation and watching these guys lose so much was really eye-opening. Everyone needs to make a conscious effort to check their detectors,” Cullen said.

Minneapolis code requires a minimum of one smoke detector on each floor of a dwelling. These alarms must be working properly. An off-campus housing packet distributed by the University suggests talking to the landlord if a detector is not working properly.onnecting the batteries) isn’t worth it,” Cullen said. “Burning the house down and losing all of your stuff is so much worse than having an annoying false alarm go off now and again.”