LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – Firefighters from across Wisconsin gathered at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse for the premier of 9 Fires – a movie produced by the Michael H. Minger Foundation that spotlights nine fires that all occurred on or near college campuses in January and February, 2012.
The film included a piece on the campus fire at which occurred in the early morning hours of January 29.
The fire, which firefighters eventually determined started on a couch in the basement of Drake Hall, forced roughly 270 students into alternative living accommodations for the Spring 2012 semester.
But Fire Chief Gregg Cleveland said he's still thankful no one was injured.
"All the things we did in collaboration with the University, like talking about escape planning, working with and training the residence hall advisors and keeping the issue of fire safety alive on campus, all those worked," Cleveland said.
"It was really a testimony to all the prevention efforts we had made ahead of time," the Chief said. "Because what would've been the reaction from our community if we had we had two, three, four or five students killed?"
"There would have been a lot of questions asked about the university and, more importantly, the fire department," Cleveland said.
Drake Hall is among the old buildings on UWL's campus that does not contain a sprinkler system.
Chancellor Joe Gow said a plan has been in the works to install sprinklers for quite some time.
"That plan was in place before the fire at Drake Hall," Gow said.
But he added paying for the sprinklers is a challenge.
"The question is where do you get the resources to do it?" Gow said. "I think the solution is splitting the cost between student tuition and our money from the state. Those are really our only two sources of revenue."
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