Anniversary of deadly UC fire prompts fire safety awareness

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Early last New Years Day, a fire broke out in an off-campus house near the University of Cincinnati that claimed the lives of 20-year old Ellen Garner and 21-year old Chad Kohls.

As both of their families approach this horrible anniversary, they say they take some comfort in the fact their lives may save others.

"We car so much after what we went through, we care a lot about helping other people not go through this," said Ann Kohls, the mother of Chad.

Since then, the Kohls and Garners have focused much of their attention on off-campus housing.

"We ramped up our efforts as a group as a team and we started the Safe Student Housing Program," said Cincinnati District Fire Chief Fred Prather.

It gives students a place to check before they rent a place to make sure it's been inspected by the fire department.

Also in the wake of that fatal fire, the Cincinnati Fire Department now goes door to door near campus, making sure each building has a working photoelectric smoke detector.  Cincinnati City Council passed a law requiring all rental properties to have one.

The Garner and Kohl families are now working with state legislators to draft a law that would require rental properties above the second floor to have two escape routes.

It's something that could have saved Ellen and Chad.

"Because there was a 42-foot drop to concrete so even if there was no AC unit in the window, there was no way out of the window," Anne Kohls said.

Ellen and Chad's parents say that the biggest change that needs to be made is the culture surrounding off-campus housing. Students need to ask about fire inspections and check for working smoke detectors

Copyright 2013 WXIX. All rights reserved.