CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Less than two months after a FOX19 investigation into off-campus housing, the University of Cincinnati is joining local leaders in an effort to inform students about which rental properties have passed a fire inspection.
Previously, a UC spokesman told FOX19 the university did not get involved in off-campus housing issues. UC now plans to share a link with students and parents that will take them to a "safe housing" list.
The effort stems from a deadly fire on New Year's Day, which critically injured 20-year-old Ellen Garner and 21-year-old Chad Kohls. They died in the hospital in the weeks that followed. The friends were trapped by smoke on the third floor of an off-campus rental home after a space heater started a fire on the second floor.
Ellen's mom, Ann, was at the public announcement Tuesday of the new effort. And she spoke with FOX19.
"You know, Ellen and Chad were up," she said. "They were screaming for help. And they couldn't get out. Their window exit was not an exit. It was blocked by an air conditioner. And even if they could have gotten that window open, it was a 42-foot drop to a cement driveway. They would've died in a fall."
Garner said she and the other parents want to make sure that the city, its fire department, and UC work together to make off-campus housing safer.
"Two beautiful young adults are gone," she said. "And they had lots and lots and lots of dreams. So it is fabulous that this is happening because maybe it's my way of serving. I don't want other parents to have to walk this journey. It's ugly. Very ugly."
Garner told FOX19 she learned about the fire when she woke-up to an officer knocking on her door at her home near Dayton "saying call this number. She's alive but you've got to hurry."
Garner adds matter-of-factly that that's when "the nightmare began."
Even if you're not a student, you can request that the fire department inspect the home you rent. It's the landlord's responsibility inside Cincinnati city limits to make sure you have a new photoelectric smoke alarm, which is more sensitive to smoldering fires. Thanks to a grant, the fire department may be able to give you a free photoelectric smoke detector if you don't have one.
The Cincinnati Fire Department performs inspections upon request, complaint or if the fire department notice code violations.