Stillwater News Press

March 7, 2013

Rental home fire costly to Oklahoma State student

By Chase Rheam
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — An Oklahoma State University student is bouncing back after a fire in her rent home destroyed most of her belongings.

Junior Morgan Garrison, a mechanical engineering technology student, said she had gotten out of classes and was driving home Feb. 22.

“I got to Springfield and 15th down right there and I was like, ‘That’s not my house,’” Garrison said. “‘No, that’s somewhere around there.’”

As she walked up to her home, a police officer stopped her, asking if it was her house.

“And by then, I was already crying,” she said.

She confirmed it was her rent house. The officer told her firefighters were still inside looking for hot spots and that the inside would be bad when she saw it, she said.

“From the outside, it looked OK,” Garrison said. “They had taken off the vent outside, but other than that, it looked fine. I had no idea what to expect.”

Garrison’s two dogs, which were in the yard at the time of the fire, were safe.

Garrison called her mom, who is a surgical scrub technician and was assisting in a surgery at the time. She left a voicemail explaining she was OK and wasn’t home, but a fire had happened.

“I didn’t know how to word it because what do you say when you call your mom?” she said.

After 10 to 15 minutes, she was escorted in.

“Once I knew my dogs were safe, I worried about some pictures of my brothers who had passed away and a stuffed animal that my grandma had given me before she passed away,” Garrison said. “Clothes and furniture, those things can be replaced, but those things, to me, are precious.”

The living room walls were blackened by the smoke and heat. In her bedroom, the floor and ceiling had been taken out in bits and many of her pictures had been lost. The stuffed animal, a white lamb, was stained, but not burned. Her laptop, although black, seems to have made it, she said. Not much else made it through the fire.

According to a Stillwater Fire Department report, the dryer was the source of the fire.

“It started where the lint tube went through the floor,” said Assistant Chief Rick Hauf.

The report states that the estimated property and content loss totaled $8,000. Garrison said she did not have renter’s insurance.

“I think maybe a lot of college students especially don’t think of cleaning out their dryer vents,” she said. “It’s so funny. I was always on that. I cleaned out the dryer vents. As a matter of fact, I had a clothesline in my backyard. I didn’t use the dryer that much to be perfectly honest. I threw a shirt in there to iron, really. I bet I had the dryer on for five minutes. To my knowledge, it was not started back up when I had left my house.”

Garrison said her family was worried the fire would be a big setback for her.

“Last semester, I had open heart surgery,” she said. “I was excited to get back here and get back to school and things were starting off good and starting off right.”

Many people have stepped up to help Garrison by donations, including OSU.

“They’ve been amazing,” she said. “Some contacts I have from a camp I went to have contacted some people up there and also Dr. (Lee) Bird has helped out a lot. I’ve gotten my books back and everybody’s been so amazing.”

Garrison has been staying with two other friends in a one bedroom home, but she had planned to move into a new rent home this weekend.

“I’m missing furniture, really,” she said. “I know those are big items.”

But with the help of others and determination, Garrison said she is ready to move on.

“I think you always move on from something like this,” she said. “You have to. My focus right now is to keep my grades up, to get my degree and know when I need support, but also I’m a strong person.”