Stop, drop and read: After blazing couches lit up Cedar Village, experts talk fire safety


East Lansing is relatively safe from fires, according to experts, despite three couch fires and a dumpster fire in Cedar Village following the MSU vs. Indiana basketball game Tuesday evening.

Ed Comeau, publisher of the safety newsletter Campus Firewatch, said although Morgantown, W.Va., is unofficially recognized as the couch-burning capital of the nation, residents of East Lansing and MSU still need to be careful of fires – whether intentionally started or not.

East Lansing police Capt. Jeff Murphy said couch burning or dumpster fires might lead to bigger problems if the fires spread to nearby apartments, or causes wires above the sidewalk to come down.


  • Check for used cigarettes after a party, couches burn quickly
  • Use caution while drinking and smoking
  • Place cigarettes in wide ashtrays on sturdy, nonflammable surfaces
  • Don’t leave candles or food on the stove unattended
  • Keep lit candles away from linens and draperies
  • In case of a microwave fire, keep the door shut and unplug the machine


  • Crouch down beneath smoke while exiting
  • Feel the door to see if it’s hot, and if so find another exit
  • Never use the elevator
  • Attend residence hall fire drills and memorize two ways out

Source: U.S. Fire Administration

“Sporting events are exciting,” Murphy said. “It’s unfortunate people have to wreck that atmosphere by setting things on fire.”

On New Year’s Day, a house fire near the campus of the University of Cincinnati killed two students and injured others, according to

East Lansing Fire Marshal Gerald Rodabaugh said the last death of an MSU student in a fire-related incident happened more than 14 years ago. He said this likely is because of safety precautions taken by the city.

“Between the city and the fire department, there is a high level of education that goes out,” Rodabaugh said. “Hazards are found before they cause fires.”

Dietetics sophomore Megan Geierman said she would feel less safe in the case of a fire in a house or during a party compared to a fire in her residence hall.

“You can get out, but you’re not going to know what to do (at a house),” Geierman said. “In the dorms it’s well organized, (and in) houses it would be a little harder.”

Ashley Chaney, assistant director of communications for the Department of Residence Education and Hospitality Services, said there are restrictions on having items that could cause fires in the residence halls, and there are monthly fire drills, maps of exit routes throughout the residence halls and community meetings to keep students informed of what to do in case of a fire.

The fire in Cincinnati was caused by a space heater on the second floor, according to, but space heaters are not allowed in MSU residence halls.

Chaney said there are weekly, monthly and yearly inspections done in the buildings to make sure everything is in line with Michigan requirements.

“Our department and also the university as a whole, we are committed to the safety and security of our residents,” Chaney said.

Geierman has lived on campus for the past two years, and said she was in her room to participate in about six drills last year. She has heard about students not participating in the drills because of cold weather or just getting out of the shower, but Geierman said the drills helped her know what to do in case of a fire.

Rodabaugh said people can help prevent fires by keeping an eye on their food while cooking, dispensing smoking materials properly in noncombustible containers, making sure candles are out before leaving them unattended and getting rid of anything with loose or frayed wires.

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