Fire demonstration raises awareness

St. Thomas students heard sirens and smelled smoke while walking through the quad Tuesday afternoon, but there was no need to be alarmed.

The smoke and fire was from the mock burn demonstrations sponsored by the Michael Larson Memorial Fund and the St. Paul Fire Department.

The fund was set up by money donated by Larson’s parents. Larson died in a house fire last December. On Friday, Sept. 23, another student residence had a house fire.

Rachel Harris, director of student initiatives, said Michael Larson’s parents were not personally involved in organizing this year’s fire expo, but they were aware of the event.

“When they gave us the money for the memorial fund, they asked that it address two things: one is smoking cessation because the fire that he was involved in started from a cigarette, and two was fire prevention,” Harris said.

The SPFD first showed students a grease fire and the ways to put it out. ­­­They stressed to the audience to never use water on a grease fire.

The second demonstration was of a dorm room fire. A miniature replica of a dorm room was constructed and furnished with a chair, bed, table, a halogen lamp and other types of dorm room furniture. The SPFD placed a towel over a halogen lamp and within three and a half minutes, the whole structure was on fire.

Once the fire reached 1,300 degrees and completely engulfed the inside of the structure, two St. Paul firefighters put out the fire.

USG Vice President Mike Orth was surprised at how quickly the fire spread in the dorm room demonstration.

“A lot of times you think you can rely on the fire department to come save you if there’s a fire, but I think what they showed today is that you have to really prevent the fire in the first place,” Orth said. “Three and a half minutes does not give them enough time to get to your apartment or house.”

The Michael Larson Memorial Fund and SFPD hope people understand the importance of preventing fires from occurring in the first place.

“We are hoping each student and staff takes away one thing today and will apply it to their personal life,” St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler said. “As kind of a living legacy to Mike Larson.”

Olivia Detweiler can be reached at

One Reply to “Fire demonstration raises awareness”

  1. Hello Olivia – I am the Sales and Marketing Manager for StoveTop FireStop, the product that SPFD Fire Chief Butler mentioned during the demonstration on grease fires. I would love to learn how we can continue to support the efforts of the SPFD, UST, and the Michael Larson Memorial Fund. We had not heard about the tragedy involving Micheal until this video came out, but would like to participate in future fire prevention efforts and awareness. Can you put me in contact with the proper channels so we can discuss what we might be able to do to help?

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