Fires at Standale apartments and GV housing lead to fire safety conversations


GVL / Max Ritchie

Elizabeth Schanz, Staff Writer

An apartment complex in Standale, Westown at Wilson Apartment Homes, caught on fire on March 19, just a few miles away from Grand Valley State University. 

The building’s fire alarms didn’t go off to alert residents of the emergency. Many only realized there was a fire because of the commotion; cars honking their horns, sirens blaring and people yelling.

Although no one was hurt in the incident, it did spark a heightened interest in housing safety. 

There was also a fire in GVSU’s North C Living Center on the Allendale campus on March 24. The fire was said to have occurred in the laundry room and there were no injuries involved. 

Many GVSU students took to Yik Yak, an anonymous social media platform where users can chat with others inside a five mile radius.

“It’s okay, guys. North C is fine…Someone just doesn’t know how to do laundry. It caught on fire,” said one Yik Yak user. 

Other students received their information regarding the fire through more official means such as the Grand Valley Police Department scanner. 

When fire alarms are set off in housing buildings, GVPD dispatch receives notifications and immediately dispatches an officer for response. 

“Officers will respond to the building and appropriate room for an initial investigation and determine the best course of action from resetting the alarm up to calling for more resources,” said GVPD Captain, Jeff Stoll.

For those who live in on-campus housing, there are different fire safety contingency measures. Two fire drills are conducted throughout the year. 

To prevent fires in on-campus living centers, RAs conduct health and safety checks each semester. The RAs look for prohibited items that could start accidental fires such as candles and space heaters. RAs also inspect smoke detectors. 

GVSU housing urged students to be aware of their appliances, as the most common source of fires in housing occurs when students are cooking.

“We’ve had residents put items on top of the stove or store (items) in their oven, causing fires and smoke in the past, which is why it’s necessary to keep those areas clear and to check the oven before turning it on,” said Adam Tate, the facilities manager for GVSU housing.

In addition to the preventative measures students can take, housing also ensures that alert systems are in place and functioning in case of an emergency. 

“Our facilities services team uses third party vendors to inspect detectors, alarms, pull stations, sprinklers, fire extinguishers and fire suppression systems annually,” Tate said.

Even with these multiple measures in place, there are some safety concerns regarding accessibility in the case of a fire accident. Some individuals with mobility issues, like wheelchair users, could potentially face issues during an evacuation. 

“There’s a disability-accessible unit on my floor for students who have mobility issues,” said Sam Fisher, a GVSU sophomore and desk assistant for GVSU’s Housing and Residence Life. “However, I live on the third floor, so in the case of a fire, a wheelchair user would have no way to get out of the building since the elevators are not able to be used.”

GVSU housing noted that often the fires are able to be contained and effectively addressed. 

Students can practice fire safety by continuing to be aware of safety hazards and evacuation plans to prevent future incidents.