San Marcos Fire Tragedy Highlights Need for Fire Safety Prevention Planning for Campus Housing

San Marcos, Texas (7/26/2018)– Several national organizations are joining together to raise awareness of the growing dangers of residential fires and the life-­‐‑saving benefits of installing fire sprinklers in dorms and off-­‐‑campus housing –whether apartments or single-­‐‑ family housing. This partnership is happening following the July 20th fire in San Marcos, Texas where five students died, six people were injured, and 200 were displaced.

“Our hope is to organize a unified response to tragedies like this so that more people may pause to realize the lessons there are to learn,” says Ron Siarnicki, Executive Director of the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation. “By joining forces coast to coast, we can help citizens and firefighters learn the facts before they select college housing and urge local fire officials to support fire sprinkler codes and be active with education about them.”

Many people lose sight of the fact that fires are dangerous not just to residents, but also to firefighters. Today’s new houses are built with big open designs, constructed with modern combustible materials, and they’re filled with synthetic furnishings. When they burn, they fail fast, and that environment places firefighters at risk from fire, as well as toxins that lead to disease. Older housing has its own unique set of challenges, and many times off-­‐‑campus housing is not up to the current code and may be lacking regular inspections.

“We are seeing too many fire deaths across America that can be prevented,” explained Amy Acton, Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors Executive Director. “We know how to reduce this number and we should all be working together to prevent more fire deaths. Properly installed fire sprinklers, working smoke detectors and escape planning are key to this issue.”

The organizations that are joining together to raise awareness about the need for fire prevention and education on campuses nationwide include: National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, National Fire Sprinkler Association, Common Voices, and Center for Campus Fire Safety.

“Our hope is that through tragedies we can unite and educate to prevent the next tragedy,” explains Rob Feeney, a burn survivor and fire safety advocate active with Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors and Common Voices. “It’s time for fire safety to be a priority. Lives can be saved if fire prevention is included in our daily lives. We extend our sincerest sympathy to the families of those who died, and we hope the survivors will join our advocacy for fire safety.”

For more details about the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Life Safety Initiatives, please visit . NFFF was created by Congress to lead a nationwide effort to remember America’s fallen firefighters. Since 1992, the tax-exempt, non-profit foundation has developed and expanded programs to honor our fallen fire heroes and assist their families and coworkers.

About Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors: Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors is the leading non-profit organization helping burn survivors meet their challenges with the community support and tools they need to thrive again, and to ensure that no survivor ever has to make that journey alone. Working with survivors, families, healthcare professionals, fire service professionals, we are uniting the voice of the burn community across the globe to profoundly advance lifelong healing, optimal recovery, and burn prevention.

About the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA): NFSA was founded in 1905 and wants to create a more fire safe world, and works to heighten the awareness of the importance of fire sprinkler systems from homes to high-rise and all occupancies in between. The Association is an inclusive organization made up of dedicated and committed members of a progressive life-saving industry. This industry manufactures, designs, supplies, installs, inspects, and services the world’s most effective system in saving lives and property from uncontrolled structural fires. For more information about fire sprinklers, how they work and access to additional resources and information, visit for the latest material, statistics and a dedicated team of fire safety advocates ready to serve all stakeholders in order to fulfill the vision of a safer world.

About Common Voices: Common Voices ( is an advocates’ coalition of members who all have been directly affected by fire. By bringing their voices together, they hope to educate others regarding fire and its devastating impact. Their mission is to create a fire-safe America by sharing their stories, creating resources that educate and sharing fire statistics.

About Center for Campus Fire Safety: The Center for Campus Fire Safety ( ) is a non-profit, member focused organization devoted to reducing the loss of life from fire at our nation’s campuses. The mission of The Center for Campus Fire Safety is to serve as an advocate for the promotion of campus fire safety. The Center serves as the focal point for the efforts of a number of organizations and also as a clearinghouse for information relating to campus fire safety.

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Common Voices advocate Bonnie Woodruff wrote and distributed the following open letter following the tragic San Marcos fire in Texas. We applaud her courage to speak out on such an important topic.

Open Letter to the Editor,

I have watched the San Marcos fire tragedy unfold in San Marcos, Texas this past week with a heavy heart. 5 student lives confirmed lost, 6 injured, 200 displaced and others still missing. It’s a mother’s worst nightmare, and it’s one I’ve lived.

I ask myself the question, “When will we learn?” I also ask “how can I help?”

It’s been 22 years since I lost my son, Ben, in a fire at the University of North Carolina. Ben died, along with 4 of his friends, in the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house fire that changed our lives forever. It was graduation day, it was Mother’s day….May 12, 1996. Fire didn’t care about any of the celebration plans we had for that day, and 5 lives were cut short.

Following the tragedy, I became involved in campus fire safety advocacy and have spent many years sharing Ben’s story in hopes that other lives will be saved. I am a proud founding advocate of Common Voices, an advocates’ coalition determined to create a fire safe America.

We’ve made progress, but there is still so much work to do. The fire in San Marcos underscores the importance of this and I felt it appropriate to reach out again.

Texas State University students are now reminded of the facts about fire in a way that no one wants to be. How can this tragedy serve as a wake-­‐up call to universities, student and parents across America?

One way that I know of is to send my plea once again to parents of students who will be heading off to college this fall.

Does your student’s housing include fire sprinklers?

Please look up for fire safety. Make sure that fire sprinklers are present and that there is a properly installed and working smoke alarm system. Encourage everyone to PRACTICE an escape plan. Whether your student is living on campus or off, the questions are the same and you are kidding yourself if you believe that fire can’t happen to you and your family.

Fire is fast. Fire sprinklers are needed. Let’s all join together and make sure that fire safety is on our back to school checklist.

Tragedies can be prevented. Ask the simple questions and make decisions based on the answers. Don’t choose on campus or off campus housing that doesn’t include fire sprinklers.

Bonnie Woodruff

Raleigh, North Carolina