Firefighters Set Fire to Mock Dorm Rooms to Show Students How Fast Flames Can Spread

Alcohol impairment is a big factor in whether students manage to get out of a dorm room in case of a fire, officials say

Firefighters set two mock dorm rooms on fire at a Long Island university Tuesday to show students how quickly a fire can spread.

Several hundred CW Post students looked on as Roslyn firefighters ignited flames in two mock dorm rooms constructed on the Great Lawn of the Brookville campus. Plywood walls formed the rooms, which were outfitted with desks and other typical student belongings.

"This visual is worth a million words," said Mike Conklin, fire safety officer at CW Post college.

Smoke detectors in each room sounded warnings as the fire intensified. A sprinkler installed in one room helped control the spread of the fire there, but in the room without a sprinkler, flames consumed everything in less than five minutes.

"It was so fast and that, I believe, was a shock to me," said Kiara Braithwaite, student body vice president.

Conklin's primary message also surprised his audience: most students who die in fires fail to escape because they are drunk or high.

"You just simply can't react. You can't hear it, you can't get up and you're done with," Conklin explained.

With CW Post students in the midst of homecoming week celebrations, student leaders said the message was all the more timely.

"This gives -- especially the freshmen students, their first time away from home and on their own -- a good perspective in terms of the reality of fire and how alcohol can impair your judgment," said student body president Dan Potenzieri.

Fire safety has become a priority on many college campuses since a fire killed three students at Seton Hall University in 2000. 

"It's scary to think of but they need to realize the reality," said Roslyn Fire Department Captain William Lanier Jr.

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