Allyn fire revisited last night

Angie Prosen

Ed Mosio, fire chief of Kent State Fire Department, watches as fire spreads in a mock residence hall room, constructed by Lambda Chi Alpha, meant to resemble room 316 of Allyn Hall. The fire was started by the Kent Fire Department at 6:30 p.m. on Manchest

Credit: Steve Schirra

Yesterday evening, Kent State Fire Safety Services, the Kent Fire Department and Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity sponsored a fire demonstration at the Manchester fire pit that educated students about the recent fire in Allyn Hall.

The point of the demonstration was to show students how fast the fire grows, how black the smoke gets and when the fire alarm in a residence hall room actually goes off, said Ed Moisio, Kent State’s fire safety coordinator.

An event that has been in the making for more than a year, Moisio contacted the men of Lambda Chi Alpha to help construct the 12 feet by 12 feet replica of the room that caught fire in Allyn Hall as part of the fraternity’s risk management program, said John Pana, member of Lambda Chi Alpha.

“I was hoping to get some carpenters,” Moisio said, laughing. “Instead I got some boys who barely knew how to use a hammer.”

The structure was started on Sunday and wasn’t finished until yesterday shortly before the fire was started by the Kent Fire Department, Moisio said. The room was meant to closely resemble that of the boys’ room where the fire in Allyn Hall began.

The structure contained two lofted bunk beds with the sheets disheveled and clothes on the floor.

“The boys’ room where the fire started wasn’t exactly neat,” Moisio said.

The replica, constructed of plywood, dry wall and 2x4s burned easily when the Kent Fire Department set fire to the corner of the structure using paper and a flame, almost identical to the fire started in Allyn Hall.

“The fire in Allyn Hall started from an electrical outlet,” Moisio said. “We can’t start the fire that way in this room because we don’t have electricity.”

Approximately 200 students gathered behind caution tape, put up by Safety Services, to watch the event. Those attending could easily see into the structure due to a glass window installed to allow students to view the movement of the fire.

Many students stopped by to see the event because they lived in Allyn Hall when the original fire took place, some students came because they wanted to stay warm or were on their way to get food at the Hub. And others came because they wanted to educate themselves about the importance of fire safety.

“Most people aren’t too keen about their dorm rooms burning down so (students) stop by to see what they can do to prevent it.” said David Belcastro, junior biology major.

As the demonstration took place Moisio offered commentary to those watching the event as well as safety tips and important fire facts to avoid a situation like the Allyn Hall fire from happening again. He explained the importance of buying “more expensive” electrical strips because they tend to be higher quality, not plugging too many appliances into one strip and keeping fire doors closed.

“Keeping the fire doors closed is what saved many of the rooms on the third floor of Allyn Hall,” Moisio said.

Once the fire was started it took less than five minutes to consume the structure. Screams could be heard through the crowd as the glass window broke unexpectedly and smoke billowed out the replica, filling the surrounding area with a yellowish-brown smog that made the inside of the room impossible to see into.

“Imagine trying to get out of a (residence hall) with all that smoke filling the hall,” Moisio said. “Outside, the smoke just goes up, when you’re trying to get out of a building the ceilings and walls trap all that smoke in the area you’re trying to get out of.”

The Kent Fire Department allowed the fire to burn for about twenty minutes, keeping many students in awe as they watched the fire consume everything in the room; destroying the walls and ceilings and devouring all personal items such as clothes and objects hanging on the walls.

It took the Kent Fire Department less than one minute to extinguish the fire and students showed their appreciation for the show with applause. Afterward, students were allowed to take a closer look into the room to see the damage the fire created. Examining only what was left: Charcoal walls and ceilings, burnt bed posts and wet ash that covered the entire room.

Lt. Patrick Edwards of the Kent Fire Department said that it’s important for students to observe these fire demonstrations to see the damage that comes from students being careless in terms of fire safety.

“Every year this event is a big success and every year we get more people to come out and watch,” he said.

Many students left with a sense of fear, others with a new outlook on the power and quickness of a fire.

“It was amazing and eye opening to see how fast the fire spread,” said Tabitha Renner, freshman special education major who was supposed to live in Allyn Hall but was switched into Centennial Hall D last minute. “Let’s do it again!”

Contact safety reporter Angie Prosen at [email protected].