Mock dorm room set ablaze in MU fire safety demonstration

Joel Pauley, left, and Klif Bullard of the Columbia Fire Department spray down the flames of a replica dorm room Wednesday at Speakers Circle. The goal of the live burn was to show the speed at which fire spreads and the unpredictability of its nature. | ANDREW WILLIAMS.


“If you were in this room and you took a single breath, it would sear your lungs,” he said.

After three minutes, firefighters put out the blaze that had engulfed the room.

Although several crowd members cheered when the fire intensified and let out disappointed moans when the hoses were turned on, some attendees said the experience left an impact.

“It was intense. I didn’t realize a room could go so fast,” said MU junior Rikki Thompson, 21. “You have no time to get out. It makes me want to go check my fire alarm.”

Fire Factor was first held in 2001, after a fraternity house fire resulted in the death of MU freshman Dominic Passantino in 1999.

Sapp said there have been no deaths in campus fires since then and added that the number of campus fires reported “is on a downward trend.”

This is the third year Fire Factor included the burning room.

Sapp said the visual appeal of the event was a good way to raise awareness about fire safety and reduce the number of campus fires.

“We’re looking for a way to captivate our audience,” he said. “This drives home that this is a non-survivable event that can occur in two minutes.”

Sapp said unattended cooking was the leading cause of fires in Columbia, and also stressed that alcohol impairment was sometimes a problem involved in campus fires.

Although it drew less of a crowd than the burning room, the firefighter challenge attracted students. In the challenge, attendees were timed as they went through a course where they carried a hose and equipment, swung a sledgehammer and dragged a dummy to safety.

MU freshman Takyra Smith, 18, said the challenge wasn’t easy.

“It takes a lot of energy to be a fireman,” she said. “It was a great experience to see what someone else does for me.”

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