decorations in the corridor supported the need for continuing fire safety inspections and
The second incident discussed by Brannigan (2000) occurred at Cornell
University in Ithaca, New York on April 5, 1967. The dormitory was a two-story fire
resistive building with a basement. Unfortunately, the building also contained a great
deal of plywood and combustible ceiling. A fire occurred in the basement lounge thought
to have started by smoking materials. Doors to the stairway had been removed for
shortening in order to accommodate carpeting. The basement doors were wedged open.
The lack of door closures allowed the spread of fire from the basement to other areas of
the dormitory. Nine victims died, all of asphyxiation.
An NFPA investigative summary detailed the significant factors of a fraternity
fire at the University of North Carolina on May 12, 1996 (NFPA, 1996). The incident
occurred on Mother’s Day and resulted in the deaths of five students. The presence of
combustible interior finishes and an open central stairway contributed to the loss of life.
In addition, the improper use or disposal of smoking materials caused the incident.
In summary, the literature review showed the instance of fires in American
college dormitories is a regular occurrence. The causes of these fires are varied.
However, an alarmingly high rate of incendiary/suspicious causes exist compared to other
residential fires. Cooking and smoking continue to be major causes of fires in
dormitories. Further, propagation factors have been studied providing information that
can be included in a fire safety education program. This includes materials that tend to
be first ignited along with routes of fire spread. The activities of college students prior to
and during fatal fires have been studied. Behavior, such as excessive use of alcohol at