Duquesne Commemorates 15th Anniversary of Tragic Seton Hall University Fire

On Jan. 19, 2000, Seton Hall University was vaulted to the national news when a fire set by arsonists raced through a freshman residence hall killing three students and injuring 58 others. The most critically burned survivors were freshmen roommates Alvaro Llanos and Shawn Simons, both of whom suffered severe third degree burns.  In commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the tragic fire, Duquesne University welcomed Llanos and Simons to campus on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 for a presentation and showing of the critically acclaimed documentary “After the Fire.”  The event was sponsored by Duquesne’s Labor Management Safety Committee and the Office of Residence Life.

Llanos and Simons gave two presentations in the Duquesne Union Ballroom.  Both presentations were free and open to the entire Duquesne community and were very well attended, with over 700 people in attendance.  Many of the attendees were employees from Facility Management, Public Safety, student RA’s, desk aides, and fire marshals, plus faculty and invited guests from local universities.  The Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire was represented by Station 4.

Llanos and Simons talk about their experience at many colleges across the country.  They also speak at high schools, as well as fire safety training or firefighting seminars and conferences.  Their motive is to be advocates for fire safety and prevention so that no other students will have to endure the pain that they suffered.  They strive to be the voice of burn victims across the country who may feel “trapped in their new skin.”  Mainly a result of the Seton Hall fire, The Higher Education Opportunity Act became law in August 2008, requiring all United States academic institutions to produce an annual fire safety report outlining the fire safety practices, standards, and all fire-related on-campus housing statistics.

Nicholas DuBos, Assumption Resident Director, organized the presentation and facilitated the event.  DuBos is responsible for educating resident students and staff about fire safety and organizes the Fire Marshal program in the residence halls.  This academic year, 215 residents volunteered to be fire marshals.  During introductions, DuBos talked about Duquesne’s excellent record of fire safety.  Duquesne has appeared on the Princeton Review’s “Fire Safety Rating Honor Roll” the past five years, receiving the highest possible score (99) each of those years.  This honor roll is a measurement of how well prepared an institution is to prevent or respond to fires in campus residence halls.  This year, only 24 institutions appeared on the list.  DuBos stated that the Duquesne Administration, Facility Management and Residence Life Personnel, as well as the student RA’s, desk aides, and volunteer fire marshals, takes fire safety very seriously at Duquesne.

After each presentation, Llanos and Simons met with audience members.  Copies of the Pulitzer Prize winning book “After the Fire,” by author Robin Fisher, which chronicles Llanos and Simons’ ordeal were available for purchase.  In addition, copies of the gripping and critically acclaimed 2011 documentary by Guido Verweyen After the Fire, which was inspired by Fisher’s book and shown during the presentation, were available to purchase.  Many in the audience purchased copies, took pictures with the speakers and noted that the two-hour presentation was life changing.