No Smoke Detectors Found in Fatal Md. Fire

FROSTBURG, Md. -- There were no smoke detectors found in the debris of a building where two Frostburg State University students perished on Dec. 3.

Alyssa Salazar, 20, and Evan Kullberg, 23, were in a rear, second-floor apartment when fire broke out in a metal flue pipe from a woodstove in a common area on the floor below them, according to Maryland Deputy Fire Marshal Bruce Bouch.

Salazar, whose birthday was that day, called 911 at least twice begging for help, saying they were trapped in their apartment.

Bouch said both Salazar and Kullberg died of smoke inhalation.

There were five apartments in the East Main Street building as well as a pizza restaurant on the first floor. Ten other occupants managed to escape the pre-dawn blaze.

Two Frostburg police officers tried vigorously to get into the victims' apartment. However, they were unsuccessful.

These are the first campus-related fire fatalities of the 2010-2011 academic year, according to Ed Comeau, publisher of Campus Firewatch.

Comeau said fire deaths in on- or off-campus housing hit an all-time low during the last collegiate year when five were recorded.

"The collegiate year starts on Aug. 1 because that's when some schools go back in session."

He added that there have been 142 fatalities involving college students since 2000.

Comeau said he sent a message to the president at Frostburg University about the tragedy. "I told them that there are parents (of past victims) available to talk to parents."

He said it's unfortunate, but the factors in the majority of the fatalities were present in Maryland -- the lack of smoke detectors and sprinklers.

Other common factors in fire deaths of college students across the country include improper disposal of cigarettes and alcohol impairment.

September is National Campus Fire Safety Month as designated by Congress. During annual sessions in the nation's capital, students, survivors and family members of victims gather to share their stories and promote the importance of fire-safe housing.

Next year's gathering in Washington is set for March.

Comeau said he also isn't optimistic that several pieces of legislation to enhance campus fire safety will move in the lame duck session.

"We'll be back next year, and start all over."

Comeau said among the issues include the Campus Fire Safety Education Act that would provide fire safety education and training to students attending institutions of higher education.

Another measure would provide matching grants for sprinklers. It did not provide for a dollar amount, he added.

Comeau said he and other campus fire safety advocates look forward to sharing their ideas with new legislators.