Dec 142003
Authors: Seth Davis

There it is, the perfect house. The rent is cheap, and it is two

blocks from campus. Kevin Wilson, division chief for the Poudre

Fire Authority, suggests looking twice to see if the house is

really so perfect.

Wilson described an emergency that almost turned fatal because

of an unsafe home.

“We had a fire on Washington Street a year or so ago where

someone had converted the garage into a bedroom, and there was no

way out except for a closet door,” Wilson said. “They had a couch

on the front porch. A carelessly tossed cigarette caught the couch

on fire and we had to conduct a rescue.”

Wilson said the residents cut a hole in the back of the living

room closet to lead to the garage, which they made into a bedroom.

The firefighters rescued someone from a different room, but

fortunately nobody was in the garage at the time. The firefighters

did not find the bedroom in the garage until later.

“Had it been 30 or 40 seconds later, it would have been a

fatality,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he does not think that house was the only one in

Fort Collins that has been modified without thinking of safety. He

also expressed concern about basement apartments and converted


“Basement apartments are a real issue. Sometimes there are too

many people down there and not enough exits for them to get out. If

the windows are really small, that might be a violation of codes.

People living in attics might not have stairwells or escape

ladders,” Wilson said.

Wilson said residents or landlords should get a permit and go

through the proper process when modifying a home.

Kasey McQueen is a student staffer for Off-Campus Student

Services/Resources for Adult Learners. She doubts students looking

to rent properties pay attention to potential fire hazards.

“I don’t think it’s one of the biggest factors that comes to

mind,” McQueen said. “It just seems like there are a million more

important things like price and location. Nobody really thinks a

place is going to burn down.”

McQueen added that she has never had anyone ask about how safe a

particular house is while she has worked for OCSS.

Scott Klatskin, senior marketing major, admitted to having other

qualities than fire safety in mind when choosing a house to


“Honestly, it was one of the last things on my mind. I was more

interested in location and cost than fire safety,” Klatskin


Klatskin said his landlord tries to keep her tenants safe to the

best of her abilities. She installed smoke detectors and made sure

they knew where the fire extinguishers were located.

While Klatskin feels safe in his house, he wonders how safe some

of his friends’ houses are.

“One of my friends is living in a basement apartment with one

little window and one door. It doesn’t seem very safe to me,”

Klatskin said.

Wilson said the fire department would come out to a residence

and conduct an inspection if someone calls and requests one. He

thinks it is better to be cautious than to run into problems


“I think the real key is to give us a call if you’re in doubt

when renting, if it doesn’t look right,” Wilson said. “Even if you

don’t rent it but are concerned, call the fire department or the

city’s building department. Calls can be anonymous, and all we need

is the address. Sometimes it is just a misunderstanding.”



Some things to look for in a rental:

* Fire extinguishers and smoke detectors

* Carbon monoxide detectors

* Windows large enough to crawl through

* Multiple exits

* Adequate electrical system

* Simple, quick escape routes

* Portable heaters mean the property does not have an adequate

heating system

* For more information, visit

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