Space heater causes tent fire for campers outside Hilton Coliseum

Makayla Tendall

A space heater did too good of a job heating up the tent of some Iowa State students camping out at Hilton Coliseum early Friday morning after the tent caught fire. 

The fire was reported around 3:30 a.m. Friday, according to the press release. Darin Van Ryswyk, deputy of ISU Police, said there were students in the tent, but they were able to get out safely. The Ames Tribune reported that the fire was loud enough for other campers to hear. 

There were no injuries and the Ames Fire Department put out the fire using about 50 gallons of water, according to a press release. The blue plastic tarp shelter melted almost completely off the metal support bars. 

The interior of the 10-foot by 20-foot shelter was being heated by a propane heater when the tarp got too close to the heater and lit on fire, according to the press release. 

The estimated damage to the tents and property inside is about $1,000, according to the press release.

The tent was one of multiple housing students camping out for the men’s basketball game on Monday, Jan. 25 against Kansas. Students have been camping out since the night of Monday, Jan. 18. 

The Ames Fire Department is working on educating students not to leave combustible materials too close to heating elements and that heating elements should never be left unattended. 

“We want the campers to stay safe while they are trying to stay warm,” said Deputy Fire Chief Rich Higgins. “They should make sure any heating devices being used are safe for interior space, and never have a portable heating device in front of an exit.”

It should not take someone else’s unfortunate to events to remind students to be safe, Van Ryswyk said referring to a fire that was started by a halogen lamp a few years ago in Larch Hall that displaced students in several rooms. 
“Everyone has the notion we don’t have too much to worry about because we have sprinkler systems, alarm systems…fire departments,” Van Ryswyk said. “But fires are quite dangerous, when they happen they’re quite serious.”
For that reason, Van Ryswyk said, space heaters are not allowed in most campus buildings. As for whether space heaters will be prohibited by those camping out before basketball games, Van Ryswyk said there is no immediate answer, but he foresees discussions among police, the Athletics Department, and other factions of university administration. 
“The university takes its responsibility very seriously, at the same time broad brushstrokes that say, ‘no you cannot do this,’ those are made with a lot of input because we’re talking about people’s liberty,” Van Ryswyk said. 
In the meantime, ISU Police posted tips for using space heaters:
Let’s hope @CycloneMBB is on fire tonight…but no more tents, please! Remember these space heater tips. #Safety1st