Students, faculty empower themselves through fire safety training

Hannah Daniel

Students watched as the flames of a grease fire spread several feet into the air after being doused in water at Gregory Plaza yesterday, in a demonstration hosted by UT Fire Prevention Services and the Austin Fire Department.

In addition to the demonstration, they provided fire extinguisher training to students and faculty during the kick-off of Campus Safety Week, an annual event organized by Student Government.

The demonstration focused on grease fire safety because kitchen fires are the most common type of house fire in America, AFD Fire Specialist Billy Zatopek said. 

Adding water to a grease fire can actually feed the flames, making the situation worse. Instead, a fire extinguisher should be used in order to effectively put these fires out.

AFD Lt. Sean Coggin said kitchen fires can be prevented by cleaning stovetops to avoid grease accumulation and keeping combustibles such as paper towels and potholders away from cooktops.

“We say a clean kitchen is a safe one,” Coggin said. “Most fires are preventable. There’s always going to be stuff that happens that we can’t prevent, but when we can, it’s our job to try.”

Zatopek said leaving the kitchen unattended while cooking is another common way for these fires to occur.

In addition to the grease fire demonstrations, UT Fire Prevention taught students and faculty how to extinguish a fire using the “PASS” method, which stands for “pull, aim, squeeze, sweep.”

Nursing junior Niang Cing used a fire extinguisher for the first time during this simulation and was able to put out a fire successfully.

“I thought the fire would go out immediately, but it takes time,” Cing said. “It would be scary in real life, so I think doing this [simulation] is better than not trying it at all.”

Fire Prevention Specialist Rick Trevino said education about fire safety has the potential to change lives.

“A lot of people go through life learning things the hard way,” Trevino said. “If you can tell somebody not to put water on a pan of grease on a stove … before they actually do it by accident, it can be a major thing in someone’s life that they didn’t learn it the hard way. Through education, there’s no telling how many people you can affect.”

Campus Safety Week events will continue from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Thursday at Gregory Plaza.