Fred Durso

Valiant effort by college student fails to save his friend from a house fire

Blog Post created by Fred Durso Employee on Mar 27, 2014

Matt HeislerLate one evening, Ryan Nelson returned to the apartment he and his roommate, Matt Heisler, shared near the University of North Dakota campus and saw heavy smoke billowing from the windows. Nelson, 20, immediately reacted, shattering Heisler's bedroom window and searching for him before pulling back from the smoke. He then went through the home's front entrance, crawling on his hands and knees before locating Heisler. After carrying Heisler's body to safety, he noticed his friend had no heartbeat.

Nelson immediately performed CPR. Life returned to Heisler, albeit briefly. He died in the hospital two days later at the age of 21, according to a news story by the Star Tribune.

"In accordance with his wishes, his organs will be donated so others can live," Heisler's parents, Jared and Cheryl Heisler, said in a statement. "We just...miss Matthew, and how the thought of going through the rest of our lives without him is beyond what we can imagine right now."

Fire officials said the blaze at the unsprinklered residence was initiated by unattended cooking. The Center for Campus Fire Safety is using this incident to draw attention to the dangers of cooking fires--the leading cause of fire in off-campus housing--and how home fire sprinklers can prevent loss of life and property.

A similar incident occurred recently at a Marist College townhouse in New York. Cooking was also the culprit of the fire, but a sprinkler system contained the fire to the kitchen. No injuries were reported. "This is an excellent example of how a sprinkler system in a building can save lives and property," said Chief Christopher Maeder of the Fairview Fire District.

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