construction variables that contributed to flame and smoke spread to upper floors were
open stairways or enclosed stairs with the doors blocked open or removed. This occurred
in seven of the fifteen incidents. In addition, excessive use of alcohol at social events
was noted to have preceded numerous cases.
Naylis (2000) described the dormitory fire that occurred in Boland Hall at Seton
Hall University on January 19, 2000. A fire alarm was received at 4:30 a.m. for a fire
that started in furniture containing polyurethane-like foam rubber located in an elevator
lobby on the third floor. As conditions worsened students ignored the fire alarm that had
sounded. Apparently, false alarms were common at the residence hall.
Fire attack and rescue efforts were hindered due to limited staffing of the local
fire department. Mutual aid was provided. However, this did not prevent the fire from
killing three students and injuring 58 others. According to Naylis’ report, fire inspections
were found to be lacking, students ignored fire alarms, fire department response was
delayed until the validity of the alarms could be checked, and the dormitory lacked an
automatic fire sprinkler system.
Brannigan (2000) discussed college dormitory fire safety following the fatal fire
at Seton Hall. Brannigan noted the problem of students being reluctant to evacuate
dormitories following the sounding of an alarm. A letter from a survivor of the Seton
Hall incident described the reluctance of many survivors to evacuate their dorm rooms.
Only after a great deal of persuasion did one group finally decide to exit the building.
The decision proved to be a life-saving one as the group barely overcame thick black
smoke in the stairwell, the result of the fire that had started one floor below their own.