Seton Hall Dorm Fire Victims Warn Roxbury Students

After the Fire Presentation with Roxbury FD and presenters Credits: Roxbury Township Public Schools
After the Fire presentation Credits: Roxbury Township Public Schools
After the Fire Presentation Credits: courtesy of Roxbury Township Public Schools
After the Fire presentation afterward with students Credits: Roxbury Township Public Schools
After the Fire's Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos Credits: Roxbury Township Public Schools
After the Fire Presentation with Alvaro Llanos, Deb Burleigh and Shawn Simons Credits: Roxbury Township Public Schools
Roxbury Fire Official Mike Pellek Credits: Roxbury Township Public Schools
After the Fire Presentation with Principal Jeff Swanson Credits: Roxbury Township Public Schools
After the Fire Presentation with Simons and Llanos in front of Roxbury High School Credits: Roxbury Township Public Schools
After the Fire presentation with students Credits: Gaelvision
After the Fire Presentation with VISTA Aides and Presenters Credits: Roxbury Township Public Schools

ROXBURY, NJ - Shawn Simons and Alvaro Llanos, two students who suffered severe burns in the Seton Hall University fire 17 years ago, visited Roxbury High School on Thursday to share their inspirational story and to deliver a cautionary message to all prospective college students.

More than 300 Roxbury seniors and a handful of juniors listened to Simons and Llanos, whose appearance was part of a fire prevention presentation made possible by the Roxbury Fire Prevention Bureau.

Roxbury Fire Official Michael Pellek received a grant from FM Global Insurance to bring to the high school the After the Fire: A True Story of Heroes and Cowards program. The initiative, geared toward high school and college students, discusses the trials and tribulations endured by Simons Llanos due to a senseless prank gone wrong.

Sign Up for E-News

“Mr. Pellek has been instrumental in bringing this program to our students," said Roxbury High School Principal Jeff Swanson. "He suggests that many people – especially young people who think it will not happen to them – do not give fire safety a lot of thought. But it is so important to be aware of potential hazards, to have a plan in place and to treat every alarm as if it’s the real thing, no matter how annoying it might seem.”

The presentation began with the hour-long film in which Simons and Llanos shared their experiences from the night of the fire through the long emotional, spiritual and physical recovery as well as the arson investigation into the matter.

The incident took place 17 years ago this month. Seton Hall freshmen and roommates Simons and Llanos were awakened around 4:30 a.m. to the sound of fire alarms in Boland Residence Hall. The students figured the alarms would turn out to be nothing, since the fire alarm had been pulled by pranksters at least once a week causing the 600 students in the dorm to dress and evacuate each time. They knew if they did not go out for a fire alarm they would be fined $100, but they took their time getting their clothes and jackets on to go out into the bitter January cold that early morning.

However, Simons and Llanos realized, upon opening their dorm door, that it was no false alarm. Thick, black smoke hit them immediately. At the fire's center, temperatures were close to 1,600 degrees.

As they were taught, the young men got low and crawled to a nearby exit. Nevertheless, Simons suffered third-degree burns to his hands - as his palms stuck to the intensely hot floor - and first- and second-degree burns to his head and face, the parts of his body that weren’t covered by clothes.

Llanos was critically burned over 56 percent of his body when his jacket caught fire from a falling ceiling tile. He spent three months in a coma.

The blaze began when a pair of students set fire to a bulletin board banner as a drunken frat prank after a surprising Big East win by the Seton Hall basketball team. The prank injured 58 people, including firefighters, and three boys dead.

At Thursday's session, the former students shared their long painful experiences during their recovery process and their journey back. This event altered the courses of their lives and they share with young adults what they’ve learned and explain what the students should look out for as they prepare to go off to college.

More than 200 presentations are given around the country and in Canada each year. Simons and Llanos said they hope students listen learn the directives given them when they are in new situations like moving into a dorm room. They stressed the importance of being aware of surroundings, knowing exits and remembering that stupid pranks can have serious consequences.

It took a tragedy like the Seton Hall University dorm fire to get laws changed, they said. Since the event, fire sprinklers above every bed in every dorm are now the standard in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Oklahoma colleges and universities.

Simons recommended all students looking at colleges investigate the fire procedures and crime reports before selecting a school. Many colleges implemented the fire sprinkler system after the Seton Hall blaze but it is still not required by law in most states and older dorms can be grandfathered in where the sprinklers don’t need to be installed.

Llanos and Simons advised students to not become complacent, to always evacuate when alarms go off, to know their surroundings, to know the closest exits, and to count the number of doors in the dorm or hotel to reach the exit.

The pair also suggested people always have two ways out of their residences. Most off-campus living situations are not monitored, inspected, or required to have the same standards as on-campus living, they noted.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Upcoming Events


Mon, May 28, 11:00 AM

Lincoln-Roosevelt School, Succasunna

Roxbury Memorial Day Parade

Giving Back


Tue, May 29, 12:00 AM

Roxbury Public Library, Succasunna

Libraries Rock! - 2018 Adult Summer Reading ...



Wed, May 30, 12:00 AM

Roxbury Public Library, Succasunna

Libraries Rock! - 2018 Adult Summer Reading ...



Wed, May 30, 7:00 PM

Circle Bowl and Entertainment, Ledgewood

Kona Tap Takeover at Big Ed's

Food & Drink


SURVIVING A STROKE: Quick Medical Response Gives Mom Her Life Back

Carotid artery dissection. It’s one of the most common causes of stroke in younger adults.

And while you might not associate the word “stroke” with younger patients, the condition – if not treated immediately – could lead to paralysis and even death.

Lindsey Singh can attest to the importance of immediacy. The 31-year-old mother of two from Flanders experienced ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 15

On this week’s AtlantiCast, learn some important tips for controlling and avoiding diabetes from an Atlantic Health System expert, see how Atlantic Health is advancing cutting-edge research, hear what’s being done to keep health care environmentally friendly and much more!


Letters to TAPinto Roxbury

An Open Letter from Morris County Educators

May 9, 2018

May 8, 2018

To the editor,

We are writing on behalf of the more than 1,600 public school employees working in our schools.  We are proud of the work that we do, and we are the reason that our schools celebrate notable achievements and our students’ goals and dreams are often fulfilled. 

Today marks the annual Teacher Appreciation Day, a day in which our nation takes a ...

Lacking Respect

As a parent of children who have attended Kennedy Elementary School in Succasunna starting in 2010, I am very disappointed that you chose to use Mr Eric Renfors  “No Shave November photos” to announce his resignation.

They were clearly used in poor taste. He is a humble man who participates in many community fund raisers and teaches ...

Kent Libby of Roxbury Makes Worcester Polytechnic Dean's List

May 23, 2018

WORCESTER, MA - Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has announced that Kent Libby of Succasunna, a member of the class of 2020 majoring in robotics engineering and computer science, was named to the university's Dean's List for academic excellence for the spring 2018 semester.

A total of 1,474 undergraduate students achieved the criteria required for WPI's spring 2018 ...

Roxbury Area Students Make Bucknell Dean's List

LEWISBURG, PA - Six students from the Roxbury area earned the dean's list during the spring semester at Bucknell University.

A student must earn a grade point average of 3.5 or higher on a scale of 4.0 to receive dean's list recognition.

The students:

Sara Christian, Class of 2018 from Flanders, NJ

Mike DiDomenico, Class of 2018 from Succasunna, NJ

Owen Klinger, Class of ...

Eisenhower Middle School Announces Third Marking Period Honor Rolls

ROXBURY, NJ - Eisenhower Middle School announces the students who have earned High Honor Roll and Honor Roll for the third marking period of the 2017/2018 school year.

Students must have earned all A’s on their second marking period report card to qualify for high honor roll. Students must have a combination of A’s and B’s on their second marking period report card to ...

Press Releases

Calling all Singer-Songwriters - Earn Spot Opening Music Fest in June!

May 9, 2018

Fulfill your dream of performing at an established local Music Festival!  Two (2) talented local/area singer-songwriters will each be awarded a 15 minute spot to open the Groove in the Grove Indie Music Festival (the Festival)!

The Groove Acoustic Open Mic Challenge (the Challenge) will be held on Thursday, June 7, 2018 at Enzo’s Pizzeria, 382 Rt 46, Budd Lake, NJ starting ...

Root for Earth Week at The Goddard School of Randolph

RANDOLPH, NJ- The Goddard School of Randolph celebrated Earth Day with a week-long Root for Earth campaign. Our goals were to encourage a love of nature and an understanding of our responsibilities to the environment.

Pre-Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Brianna, planned and coordinated the week’s activities. These activities included a nature sensory bin, tree bark art rubbings, yard waste ...