On Saturday, Apr. 3, four fires were reported off campus within a span of 12 hours. The first, reported early Saturday morning at 909 Church Street, consisted of three burning cars and damaged the adjacent Abbey apartment complex but resulted in no injured or displaced residents. The second, a trash can fire on White Street, occurred within the next few hours. The third fire was initially reported as a burning trash bag on the porch of 928 State Street early Saturday morning. The fire spread to a sofa on the porch and quickly engulfed the house in flames. Of the seven people in the building, three were taken to the hospital due to injuries sustained while escaping the house. One of the hospitalized residents — Renden LeMasters, a 22-year-old Eastern Michigan University student — sadly passed away later that day. The last reported fire involved a burning newspaper underneath the window of a house on the 700 block of Church Street and occurred early Saturday afternoon.

As the chair and vice chair of the Michigan Student Assembly Campus Safety Commission, it is our role to provide the student body with safety information relating to all areas of on-campus and off-campus life. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the LeMasters family during this difficult time and we hope that such a tragedy can be avoided in the future.

Having spoken with a number of students regarding Saturday’s fires, it is evident that many are concerned and are looking for ways to prevent similar incidents in their own homes. After meeting with the Department of Public Safety, we wish to share some safety procedures regarding fire prevention and suggested protocol in the event of a fire. As the cause of each of Saturday’s fires still remain unknown, it is important to consider a variety of fire safety precautions.

Here are some ideas:

Try not to light fires outdoors. In the last month, state and local officials advised not to burn anything outside. Due to the recent heat wave and dry air, vegetation and wooden structures are more susceptible to catching fire.

Be careful when you grill. With the weather improving and more students using outdoor grills, it is important that hot coals and ashes are extinguished and discarded safely.

Dispose of cigarette butts properly. Verify that all cigarette butts are completely put out before disposing of them. Also avoid flicking cigarette butts and smoking near flammable structures and materials.

Don’t leave trash lying around. Garbage can easily catch fire, so it should always be fully contained in trashcans a safe distance away from buildings.

Consider the risk of having a sofa on your porch. Although there is currently no city ordinance banning upholstered furniture on porches, DPS advises against keeping sofas, armchairs and other upholstery outdoors due to their flammable nature.

Have an evacuation plan. Know the exits in your building and prepare a back-up plan in case flames block usual escape routes. Hold practice fire drills to make sure all residents know how to get out safely.

Keep escape routes clear. Ensure that doorways and windows are not blocked and avoid putting large objects in hallways because they can impede your exit in the case of a fire.

Check your smoke detectors. Verify that there is at least one smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home. Test the devices often to find out if the batteries are working. Be sure to leave all smoke detectors uncovered, plugged in and turned on.

In the case of a fire, it is essential to act quickly and decisively. If you smell smoke and are unsure of its source, immediately evacuate the building you are in and inform the police or fire department of the situation. Also, always trust your smoke detectors — never presume that a fire drill is taking place or that the alarm is malfunctioning. This advice may seem obvious and redundant, as we have all heard fire safety tips countless times since childhood, yet in light of Saturday’s tragic events, we are reminded that it is better to be proactive than reactive when dealing with fire.

As always, if you note any suspicious behavior on campus, contact DPS at (734) 763-1131. For suspicious behavior off campus, contact the Ann Arbor Police Department Tip Line at (734) 794-6939. For all emergencies, dial 9-1-1.

Josh Buoy and Stephanie Hamel are the chair and vice chair of the MSA Campus Safety Commission.

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