A mother is pleading for more education about fire safety in college housing after she lost her daughter in an apartment fire near Reed College last year.

The start of school is top of mind for some students right now, but Portland Fire & Rescue recognizes fire safety may not be.

With the help from mother Lauren Gibbs, the agency is raising awareness about their “Zero Fire Death” initiative.

In February of last year, Portland firefighters arrived to find an apartment near Reed College engulfed in flames. Three people were inside.

“My daughter became unconscious within three minutes of calling 911,” said Gibbs, whose daughter, Mara, died after the fire from smoke inhalation.

Mara’s roommate, Miranda McGough, survived and her mother also spoke at a press conference Monday morning.

McGough's mother said a couch in her daughter's apartment caught fire early that morning.

McGough and Mara Gibbs doused the couch with water and moved it from a nearby heater.

McGough’s mother said her daughter didn’t call 911 because she thought the fire was out, but she and Mara Gibbs woke up a few hours later to their apartment filled with smoke.

“Our daughters thought that they put out a fire at night, but woke up in the morning to smoke alarms,” she said.

Lauren Gibbs said a conversation about fire safety didn’t occur to her when she sent her daughter, Mara, to school.

“Never crossed my mind until my daughter died in a fire,” she said.

Now Gibbs is advocating for others to talk about risks and regulations.

“So that you do not have to join that club of people whose loved one has died. My club, the club of loss,” Gibbs said.

With more widespread fire safety knowledge, she’s hoping to save lives.

Firefighters say as part of their “Zero Fire Death” initiative, they want college students to know a few things before they’re on their own for the first time.

They say to make sure candles are never left alone, to always know the way out of your apartment or dorm building, and to always know the exact address of where you live (including building numbers or letters).

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