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Fire destroys off campus housing

Seven Indiana University Pa. students lost everything early Sunday morning 2/12/13, when their off campus housing was struck by fire.  None of the occupants were at home when the converted garage containing three apartments was heavily damaged by the fire. Fire officials are investigating, but a cause has not yet been released.

reported by: Fire Engineering.com

Students in Attic Trapped by Fire 

The 2-1/2 story residence located near the University of Cincinnati campus has a history of housing students. Senior marketing major Chad Kohls age 21 and 20 year old Ellen Garner, also a U of C student were rescued from a fire in their off campus rental property early new years day. Chad Kohls died seven days later as the result of his injuries in that fire; Ellen Garner remains in critical condition at the UC Medical Center.

Chad Kohls

WLWT News 5 in Cincinnati reported that one of the surviving occupants of the house stated that bedding placed too close to an electric space heater in a second floor bedroom was the cause of this fire. Fire fighters contained the fire to the bedroom, but not before thick black smoke filled the building. Escape from the attic was impossible. Combustible material placed too close to space heaters is an easily avoided but common cause of residential house fires. The first step is to be aware of the danger and then prevent it from happening. A clear space of no less than 3 feet needs to be maintained around the space heater. Electric space heaters need to be plugged directly into an electrical outlet, never plugged into an extension cord.    

Bedrooms in a third floor attic space are forbidden by fire codes in most jurisdictions, because of limited egress. Usually there is only one way out of these spaces. Fire Engineering.com in their article on this fire suggests that State of Ohio and City of Cincinnati building codes require that when 6 or more un-related adults live in a house, it must have two ways out of a third floor living area. Cincinnati fire officials reported that there were seven people displaced by this fire. The same Fire Engineering article identifies two students who previously occupied two attic bedrooms in the house while they attended the University of Cincinnati. Fire Engineering finishes their article by revealing that the Hamilton County auditor lists this property as having four-bedrooms. Obviously, there were at least two bedrooms added. If in fact it is true that the two injured students were occupying bedrooms in the attic space of this structure, then it is clear Fire Safety Codes were not enforced. It is also clear that those occupying the attic bedrooms were either ignorant of the danger or they where aware, but chose to disregard the danger. In either case, the end result is made much more tragic because of how easily it could have been prevented.  

Cornell student dies in Friday May 5, 2011 apartment fire in Collegetown

21 year old Brian Lo a student at Cornell University is the latest student to lose his life in off campus housing.    News reports state that Lo’s  body was found in a first floor hallway.  Cause of the early morning fire and that the cause is believed to be unattended cooking.   

Off campus housing fire that takes the lives of two Southern Illinois University students

The death of two female Southern Illinois University students is reported today on www.stltoday.com.  Fire fighters removed the students from their burning off campus rental apartment early Sunday morning and transported them two a hospital in Maryville Illinois.  Both students later lost their struggle for life this morning.   The students are identified as 19 year old Lauren D. Peterson and 21 year old Lacy Siddall.    

According to the article, a cause for the now fatal fire has not been determined, fire officials noted that a laptop computer on a bed and an electrical power strip were near where the fire started.

Welcome to the
Off Campus Living Website

While the focus of this site is primarily off campus housing and safety for students in the Buffalo and Western New York Region, much of the resources and information can be useful for students everywhere.

We will continue to grow this site, adding housing guidance, safe living advice, informative videos, and useful links.

Off Campus Living. Living Smart. Living Safe.

311 Help Line

Is your landlord unresponsive to your requests for repairs to your of campus rented housing?

Do electric fuses or circuit breakers continually blow or shut off when you use appliances?   

Are your sinks or bathtub drains clogged?

Is there sewage backing up into the basement, particularly when it rains?

Are your windows broken, leaking or simply do not open?

Is the porch/stairs on your rented home rotten and unsafe?

The 311 Call and Resolution system operated by the City of Buffalo provides students living in off campus rented housing with an alternative when landlords are unresponsive to their needs or concerns. read more...

Tenant - Landlord Property Survey

This document is intended for use by both landlord and tenant, as a means of documenting condition(s) of the rental property immediately prior to a tenant accepting responsibility for the property.

A duplicate copy of this form and all attachments should be provided to all persons affixing their signature to this document. Use this link to download the Renters Checklist (pdf).

Check out these resources before signing that lease!

Things To Look For

This slide show will give you some basic things to look for when checking out rental housing.

Slide show link


Off Campus Housing Checklist Booklet

Room-by-room checklist as you walk through a rental property.

Download the
Renters Checklist Booklet
Download file in
Booklet format layout(pdf)


How to Request Records through the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)

You can use the following link to access a MS Word Sample Request Letter you can download and modify:
Sample FOIL Request Letter


Student Safety Brochure

Student Safety Brochure Cover Student Safety Brochure

Using a recent house fire as an example, this brochure provides information on fire safety considerations important to renters. Fortunately in this situation none of the eight students living in this rental property were injured, although most of their belongings were lost.
Find out more (pdf)...