Trashy fire brings JFD to campus

Bob Davidson, firefighter with the Joplin Fire Department, stokes out the dumpster fire in front of Dryer Hall Jan. 8.

Bob Davidson, firefighter with the Joplin Fire Department, stokes out the dumpster fire in front of Dryer Hall Jan. 8.

Nate Billings

In front of Dryer Hall at 11:25 a.m. Jan. 8, a dumpster fire broke out.

Ron Cooksey, food service manager, spotted the fire.

He was working in the dining room of the Student Life Center, and when he left, he saw the dumpster on fire.

“An hour before that, I know it was not on fire,” Cooksey said.

He said from the size of the fire and the smoke, it had not been burning long.

He then went inside and called the Department of Public Safety. An officer responded to the call and saw the fire. He could not put the fire out, but called the Joplin Fire Department.

A truck was sent out and the fire was controlled.

“There is no discernible way to determine the cause,” said Tim Woodward, Joplin fire marshal.

He said the cause could be someone throwing a

lit cigarette into the dumpster without realizing what had happened.

“We rule them accidental unless we have evidence otherwise,” Woodward said.

Deb Gipson, director of housing, said there are no suspects.

“We have no idea who it was,” she said.

She said the incident occurred on a Sunday and few people were around when it happened.

“It didn’t last long,” she said. “We didn’t gather much of a crowd.”

Gipson said students could prevent such occurrences by stopping to think if they find themselves in such a situation.

“When a person panics, he or she doesn’t think about these things,” she said.

She said the staff is prepped for fires, but small fires, such as the one in the dumpster, must be handled in a case-by-case instance.

“That’s why we have fire extinguishers everywhere,” she said. “Nobody’s going to fault you for using these in the right situations.”

Woodward said there was no reason to suspect an arson, but if several dumpster fires had been seen in the area, there would be cause to add extra security.

As fire marshal, he may also issue citations to those who intentionally cause fires. Also, the dumpster is the private property of the company that uses it. This means the company may also be able to press charges if someone intentionally set it on fire.

He also said the best way to prevent such fires is to dispose of smoking materials and other lit items in the proper containers.

Gipson encourages all who spot fires that cannot be handled by an extinguisher to call 911 and the Department of Public Safety.