PHOENIX — Housing-related fires have claimed the lives of 161 college students nationwide since 2001.
In light of this fact, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has proclaimed September as Campus Fire Safety Month. The proclamation notes that 85 percent of those fires happened in off-campus housing. The Phoenix Fire Department said that in many cases, the home or apartment rented by the college students did not have a working smoke detector.
That was the case for Jim Osborn’s 21-year-old son, Tanner. He was working a college internship in Chicago in 2005. One morning, Jim got a phone call that every parent fears.
“At 10:03 in the morning, I received a phone call from the Chicago Police Department me that my son had perished along with two other boys in an off-campus related fire,” said Osborn, choking back tears.
“It was probably the most difficult and devastating thing that’s ever happened to me in my life.”
Tanner and the other two students were renting the home. Eight years later, the cause of the fire still isn’t known. Osborn does know that there was a smoke detector in the house, but it wasn’t working.
“If it had been properly placed in the right location, and working, all three boys would be alive today,” he said. “All three boys would have their futures in front of them still.”
Since the tragedy, Osborn has been working with the Phoenix Fire Department to raise awareness about making sure everyone has a working smoke detector. He’s teamed with the fire department to inspect smoke detectors, and has helped give away some 8,000 smoke detectors to those in need. Osborn said he “adores” his son, and wants to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Osborn has the memory of holding the burned body of his son after the fire. He also carries a charred stick that was part of the house as a daily reminder of Tanner and his two classmates.
“Do you want to smell it?” Osborn asks.
He knows what he smells on the stick.
“I smell death. I smell my son. I smell Justin McDonald, and I smell Chris Ross.”
McDonald and Ross were Tanner’s roommates.
“I see all three of their faces. They were 19-years-old, 20-years-old,and 21-years-old. And who those boys could have been, we’ll never know. What they could have accomplished, we’ll never know.”
Osborn hopes his story will encourage you to make sure both you and your college kids have a working smoking detector where you live, or in the hotel room where you’re staying. It could save your life.
Phoenix Fire Capt. Tony Mure said you should check your smoke detector regularly and replace the batteries, if needed. If your smoke detector is 8-years-old or more, Mure said that, mostly likely, it’s time to get a new one.
- The 5 worst things you could do for your roof
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise
- State Fair ‘Kid Reporter’ has all the angles covered
- 4 important things to know about timeshare maintenance fees
- Signs of delayed car crash injuries
- The truth about sports concussions
- The Alzheimer's epidemic: Facts you need to know
- The season is here, keep your Fantasy Football team strong all season
- 8 TV shows you can't miss this fall
- Football is here: 6 tips to make this your best season ever
- Gameday recipes and beers to match
- 6 reasons the Cardinals are driven to win the Super Bowl
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.