University of New Haven’s Fire Science programme featured in crucial fire safety video

Left to right: Matthew Brown, Patrick Ethier, Bruce Varga, Sierra Hawkins, Robert Healey, Mckenzee Juratovic.

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Left to right: Matthew Brown, Patrick Ethier, Bruce Varga, Sierra Hawkins, Robert Healey, Mckenzee Juratovic.

Several students from the University of New Haven’s Fire Science Program were featured in a new video on importance of fire safety and fire codes. The video highlights a lesser-known fire that claimed the lives of more than 200 people in the 1940s. They hope it fosters education and interest in fire safety and its history, while highlighting how the University is training the fire safety professionals of tomorrow.

Patrick Ethier ’22 has been an active member of his local fire department since he was 16 years old. Passionate about giving back to his community and keeping others safe, he was recently featured as part of a new fire safety video, filmed, in part, at the University, that he hopes will promote public safety.

A fire protection engineering major at the University, Ethier is looking forward to designing fire protection systems that, he hopes, will “help provide a safer tomorrow.” He also hopes the video, titled “Safety INsight,” will do that as well. The title is a play on words, of sorts, since the film offers important insight into one’s surroundings – including what is hiding in plain sight.

“Being part of the shoot was an amazing experience,” said Ethier. “I am very grateful I had the opportunity to be a part of it. I really enjoyed spending most of that day with my classmates and some of the fire science faculty talking about what we do in our field. We were also able to show off the equipment that students are working with at the University of New Haven.”

Ethier was one of several students and faculty members who are part of the video, which was filmed at the University shortly after the Spring 2021 semester ended. It focused on the importance of fire safety, fire science education, and fire codes through the lens of a lesser-known fire: the Rhythm Club Fire in Natchez, Mississippi. More than 200 people were killed in the fire, which occurred in 1940 in a predominantly Black community, and the tragedy did not gain national attention.

The hope is that by educating the public about that tragedy, the film will honour those who were killed while educating the public. That’s something that Sierra Hawkins ’22, whose father is a career firefighter and whose mother is a volunteer EMT, is passionate about.

The video highlights important fire-safety protocols, including ensuring that building exits are not blocked and are easily accessible. It discusses what has been learned from tragedies such as the Natchez Rhythm Club Fire and how these lessons are being applied to keeping the public safe today, since today’s fire codes are influenced by yesterday’s tragedies.

Jing Li, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University’s Fire Science and Emergency Management Department, said: “The student and faculty participation in this video not only highlights the strengths of the University’s Fire Science and Emergency Management Department, it also brought to the public attention that fire safety can be studied fundamentally in the lab to limit the possibility of fire risk,” he said.

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