Against the symbolic backdrop of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, Gov. Bev Perdue pledged her support Thursday to a fire safety campaign targeting off-campus student housing.
The program, called “Help Save a Life, Get on the Truck,” will focus on educating college students about the need for sprinkler systems and smoke detectors in off-campus houses.
Led by the Florida-based Michael H. Minger Foundation, the statewide program is funded by a $60,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security, which was awarded earlier this summer.
The Phi Gamma Delta house burned down May 12, 1996, claiming the lives of five students.
Bonnie Woodruff, whose son, Ben Woodruff, died in the fire, described the situation as a “perfect storm.”
She said it was an “old house with wood paneling and layers of latex paint, a central stairwell that would act as a chimney, big industrial fans in the basement and fathers and sons sharing cigars together.”
There were no fire sprinklers in the house, which the fire chief at the time told her would have saved her son’s life.
“We fought hard to make sure that happened, and in 2001, all the fraternities and sororities on this campus had fire sprinklers,” Woodruff said.
Ed Comeau, a former chief fire investigator and publisher of the Campus Firewatch website, helped the foundation write the grant proposal.