One of the leading causes of fires in residence halls is arson. No matter how small a fire, whether it is a bulletin board or a trash can, it can become a fatal fire.

The Story

Michael Minger, 19, in his residence hall

My son, Michael Minger, 19, a sophomore, was killed and 14 others were injured in an arson fire that was started when someone poured gasoline in his residence hall hallway and lit it. There were no automatic fire sprinklers in the building and the fire alarm system was not adequate to warn everyone about the fire. Even though this was an arson fire, which is one of the leading causes of fires on campuses, both sprinklers and a proper fire alarm system would have made a difference in the outcome of this fire.

Michael was majoring in Broadcast Journalism and vocal performance. Despite having a learning difference, he was driven to always do his best. He was very serious about his education and had a 3.936 GPA at the time of his death. Michael had a big heart and his hero was his twin sister.

Fire safety is Life Safety. It is so important that you know how to pick fire safe housing, either on- or off-campus, and that you you know what to do if an emergency happens, no matter where you are, your residence hall, fraternity, sorority, a restaurant, a movie theater – anywhere. A fire can break out at any time and simply knowing two ways out may make all of the difference.

Remember, fire safety, it’s part of living.

Gail Minger

The hallway outside of Michael’s room

To know…

  • You need to know this information for after when you are visiting friends who live off-campus and for when you move out of the residence halls.
  • This is only some of what you need to know. There is more information online at the links below.
  • Over four out of five of the campus-related fire fatalities and injuries happen off-campus. Think about this when you are visiting someone’s house.
  • What you learn here can save lives…yours, your friends, your roommates
  • Escape Planning
    • Always know two ways out, wherever you are.
    • The way you came in might be blocked when you try to get out.
    • Your second way out might be something like a window.
  • Automatic Fire Sprinklers
    • Fire sprinklers save lives — they are a powerful line of defense in fighting fire.
    • They can put out the fire within seconds, long before any fire department can get there.
    • Despite what you see in the movies, only one or two sprinklers will go off and they will put out the fire.
  • Smoke alarms
    • Smoke alarms in the residence halls, you don’t need to worry about testing them. Facilities will do that.
    • Do NOT cover them with anything. It puts you and everyone around you in danger if they can’t do their job.
    • When you move off-campus, make sure you have working smoke alarms in your home. They can save your life.

The door of Michael’s room where he was found.

Watch these videos to learn more about smoke alarms and escape planning.

Action steps

  • Smoke alarms – install them, test them, maintain them. They can’t save your life if they can’t do their job. If you don’t have them, for the price of a pizza you can buy a smoke alarm.
  • Escape Planning – Know two ways out, no matter where you are. Your second way out may be a window. Be ready, know what to do before the emergency.


There is a lot more that you can know to be fire safe. For more information, visit these links.