By Jaci Schneider, Opinion Editor
Flames bursting from a mock residence hall room awed students as they exited Moody Coliseum after Chapel on Tuesday.
The fiery demonstration served as a lesson to students on how fast fire travels, especially in messy residence hall rooms.
“The Burn Room is a great way to offer students a life-sized object lesson regarding fire safety,” said Dr. Mimi Barnard, director of Residence Life Education and Housing, in an e-mail.
The lesson seemed to work as students gasped in amazement at how quickly flames spread and smoke billowed from the room.
Layne Rouse, Students’ Association president, lit the match to start the blaze. Within five seconds, the smoke alarm began wailing, and gray fumes wafted through the room.
In a minute and a half, flames fully engulfed the inside of the small building, including the bed and all the bedding.
After two minutes, the windows began shattering, and after three and a half minutes had elapsed, the Abilene Fire Department stepped in to squelch the blaze.
“Two minutes is not a lot of time to get out,” said Todd Ormsby, director of Smith and Adams halls. “I think it’s something all the students need to check out,” he said, adding that he does check for candles in his residence halls.
After the demonstration, some students said they will think twice about lighting candles in their rooms or homes.
“It left a really big impact on me,” said Mandy Bizaillion, junior marketing major from Houston. “It made me realize that I should take away the 15 candles from my room.
“I’m sure a lot of kids are watching this that will think twice. I know I will.” Organizers said they hoped to spur that kind of attitude by the illustration of the ravages of fire. Chuck Estes, director of environmental heath and safety, said the purpose was to save a life.
“If we don’t have an incident this year, then we saved a life,” he said.
Tuesday’s fire demonstration was the second of its kind to happen on campus. Last year was the initiation of the Burn Room.
Residence directors donated all the furniture and clothing in the room, and the physical resources team scoured the city for additional items.
The glass paint and sheet rock was all donated by local businesses, and the AFD uses the demonstration as a drill for training. The firemen filmed the crew battling the flames and will use it for their own personal needs, Estes said.
The building will be reused year after year after Estes cleans it up.
“If we can save one life, then all the effort and sweat was worth it,” he said.