PARKERSBURG - With September designated as the Center for Campus Fire Safety's "National Campus Fire Safety Month," local firefighters took the opportunity to explain fire safety.
Capt. Tim Flinn with the Parkersburg Fire Department said students should become familiar with their surroundings when going back to school or attending a new school.
Local officials said becoming aware of surroundings can be the difference between a life and death situation.
"A simple item in reporting an emergency is knowing your physical street address so it may be reported to first responders in a quick fashion," Flinn said.
In cases where fire fatalities occurred on college campuses, alcohol was often a factor, according to statistics from the United States Fire Administration.
From January 2000 through June 2013, there were 83 fatal fires reported on college campuses nationwide, including off-campus housing within a three-mile radius. A total of 120 victims were involved in the fires with 14 intentionally set, 36 accidental and 33 that were never determined.
In the wake of fire awareness, the Center for Campus Fire Safety offers tips on how to stay safe:
* Take every alarm seriously; it could be the real event. Many students are unaware that fire is an actual risk or threat. Never disable a smoke alarm or any other fire protection equipment. This is not only a crime; it endangers everyone in the building and responding firefighters.
* Always participate in fire drills and practice escape routes and evacuation plans.
* Do not overload on extension cords or burn candles. Use a surge protector for computers and plug the protector directly into an outlet.
Seventy-two percent of the reported fires involved cooking equipment, officials said. The most common time for fires is during evenings and weekends.
This past May, a college in western Ohio experienced a large structure fire in the early morning hours of a Saturday. The house, on Miami University's Oxford campus, was the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house and was more than 100 years old, according to media reports at the time of the blaze.
Media outlets reported the Oxford fire chief said 15 people were living in the house but only two were home at the time of the fire. The fraternity house was a total loss and it was reported officials believed the fire to be the result of arson. There was no word on if the house had working smoke alarms.
Flinn said students should notice if there are working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their dorm or apartment. Also, students should have an escape plan.
"If they have any concerns they should contact the local fire department or responsible agency," he said. "The students going back to college should get familiar with their surroundings as to where exits are located and have a primary escape plan and secondary escape plan."
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)