With the holidays here, many students have decided to show spirit by decorating their dorm rooms with purchased trees, wreaths, menorahs and other decorations. But some students ignore the many hazards that make fires prevalent in the winter months.
Officials from the University and the Ann Arbor Fire Department said safety should be one of students’ first priorities, especially when celebrating the holidays.
Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said there is a rule against having open flames on campus, which includes the lighting of candles and incense.
Candle fires have nearly tripled in the past decade according to the AAFD. Nearly twice as many home candle fires occur in December than during any other month, mostly because of holiday decorations and rituals.
Generally, December, January and February are the deadliest months for fires.
“Many students have decided to ignore the rule,” LSA sophomore Minnie Kim said. “I have seen students light candles in their room.”
Brown, who also coordinates the Department of Fire Safety, said all these restrictions are put in place to prevent fires and other hazards.
“There have been fires in the past with candles,” she said.
“I don’t understand why students use candles in their dorms. The rooms are so small — there is a bigger risk of a fire occurring,” Kim said.
Other students choose to light candles in spite of the rules. “It makes the atmosphere more comfortable and feels like home. It can be dangerous, but I keep them contained and never leave them unattended,” LSA freshman Ron Leuterio said.
Housing spokesman Alan Levy said, “We encourage residents to enjoy the holidays, but to be safe.”
Levy said the use of live trees or wreaths is not allowed in residence halls, because they are extremely flammable. This rule is also enforced on Ann Arbor residents unless they properly care for the tree by watering it to reduce the flammability.
Levy also pointed out that the restriction on candles might be a problem for students who celebrate Hanukkah.
“Students will be able to light menorahs in the lounges of their dorms in the presence of a residential advisor. They will also be allowed to have them in their dorms, but will not be allowed to light them,” Levy said.
LSA freshman Jen Rothstein said she understood the hazard that menorahs can cause and has made other arrangements to celebrate the holiday.
“It’s disappointing not being able to light my own menorah since it’s part of a holiday tradition but I’ll be going to Hillel (the Jewish student center),” she said.
“The number one reason for fires during the holidays is due to candles,” said Inspector Douglas Warsinski of the AAFD’s fire prevention unit.
He added that other factors contributing to holiday fires are cooking and overloading outlets with electrical Christmas appliances, such as decorative lights.
Students can see the regulations put in place by the University by visiting the University Housing website at www.housing.umich.edu.
Another website to find information on fire safety in dorms is the National Fire Protection Association, which provides good tips on fire prevention.