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, Jan. 12 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


Feeling Lucky

Shop of the morning to you! It’s that time of year when everyone’s color is green! Stop by Sadie's to get your St. Patty’s shirt before the big day. While your here and feeling lucky check out our latest Spring styles for Men and Women. You may make your friends green with envy.

Horoscope: Have a birthday between 3/13 and 3/24? If you stumble into a ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 13

On this episode of AtlantiCast, new clinical studies in the fields of cardiology and immunotherapy, national and statewide recognitions for Atlantic Health System medical centers and the inaugural AtlantiCast Collab Challenge!


South Orange Police Blotter - Adult Arrests for Shoplifting and DWI Reported

March 16, 2018

South Orange Police Blotter as of March 16

Adult Arrest/Shoplifting - William Minitee, a 45 year old Irvington resident was arrested on Thursday, March 8, at approximately 12:40 p.m. for shoplifting. Security officers at the Stop & Shop on Valley Street observed Minitee conceal several items on his person and then flee the store without paying for the items. Officers stopped a subject ...

Maplewood Police Blotter - Home Burglary, Burglary at DeHart Community Center Reported

March 4 - Burglary; At approximately 1:20 a.m., officers observed a male removing several items from inside DeHart Community Center. The male was identified as 22 year old Joe Carr of Irvington. He was arrested and charged with burglary.

March 6 - Burglary; At approximately 11:30 a.m., officers responded to a home on Broadview Avenue on a report of a ...

Maplewood to Hold Spring Egg Hunt on Sunday, March 25

March 19, 2018

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Hop on down to Maplewood's Spring Egg Hunt! Maplewood will hold its 34th annual hunt on Sunday, March 25, from noon to 2 p.m. in Memorial Park.

An email from the Maplewood Recreation Department states to "please arrive promptly at noon with a basket or bag to make sure you don’t miss anything."

At last year's event, hundreds of kids ...

Most South Orange Maplewood Schools Plan to Participate in National School Walkout on Wednesday, March 14

SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NJ - On Wednesday, March 14, the Women’s March Youth EMPOWER is organizing a National School Walkout. According to the national march website, the walkout is for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. "to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods... and to demand Congress ...

Upcoming Events

Mon, March 19, 7:00 PM

Bow Tie South Orange Cinemas, South Orange

18th Annual New Jersey Jewish Film Festival

Arts & Entertainment Religions And Spirituality

Tue, March 20, 7:00 PM

Bow Tie South Orange Cinemas, South Orange

18th Annual New Jersey Jewish Film Festival

Arts & Entertainment Religions And Spirituality

Wed, March 21, 12:00 PM

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, South Orange

The Purposes and Rhythms of Jewish Living

Education Religions And Spirituality


Wed, March 21, 6:00 PM

Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center, Conference Room A/B, First Floor, Livingston

Colon Cancer Screening Education Program at Saint ...

Health & Wellness

Members of Brick City Brims Charged for Alleged Roles in Drug Trafficking Organization

March 17, 2018

NEWARK, NJ – Six members of the Brick City Brims set of the Bloods street gang were arrested last week for their alleged roles in a major drug trafficking organization that dealt heroin in and around Newark.

Tyrone Brown, 34, Lamarr Burwell, 22, and Miles McCloud, 37, all of Newark, and Martin Pettiford, 23, of Irvington, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to ...

Millburn Township Battle Against Proposed Stop & Shop Comes to an End

MILLBURN, NJ --  Alexander McDonald, Millburn Township Business Administrator, announced that the 24-year court battle with Stop & Shop ended with a dismissal before the pending trial commenced. Originally, Millburn Township and the Board of Adjustments faced four separate suits, which was consolidated into one case for trial. 

McDonald stated: "This has been a ...

Commemoration of Jay Kielwasser, Union Animal Control Officer

March 17, 2018

UNION, NJ – A commemoration of the late Jay Kielwasser's work as Union’s Animal Control Officer took place at Wednesday evening’s Board of Health meeting.

Board President Jackie Carter said Kielwasser, who passed away in April, was the first Animal Control officer appointed by the Board of Health. 

“You really don’t know how someone ...

Springfield Residents Cope as Power Slowly Returns

SPRINGFIELD, NJ - As of Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m. Springfield is showing outage of 2,677 or 25 percent, which is down from over 40 percent in the last two hours. It is also down from 68 percent at the peak. Union County at this point is over 20 percent of JCP&L’s statewide outages. Trucks are visible on Township streets with a caravan spotted on ...

Weekly Specials at Ashley Marketplace - March 16 to March 22

March 16, 2018

Shop Ashley Marketplace & Cafe for your everyday needs!

This week's specials are:

Litofish Sardines $5.99ea (Ashley Fish Market)
Total Fage Yogurt 4/$5
Aviv Passover Matzos 2/$7
Ground Beef $3.99lb (Meat)
Roasted Vegetables $7.99lb (Prep Food)
President Brie $6.99lb (Cheese)
Iceberg Lettuce $1.99
Serrano Ham $14.99lb (Deli)
Turkey Hill Ice Cream ...

SOMA Film Festival Starts Friday Night, March 16

The 3rd annual SOMA Film Festival is finishing up the final touches before they kickoff this weekend's event at The Woodland, Bow Tie Cinemas in South Orange, and Maplewood Theater.  

With 16 screening programs there is something for everyone. The popular Kids Program is back for two engagements with both sold out as is the Opening Night Party and Screening. 

Tickets are still ...

West Orange Elementary Teacher Succumbs to Injuries Following Accident

WEST ORANGE, NJ - Washington Elementary School first-grade teacher Patricia Villarosa, 64, of West Orange, died on Friday at University Hospital after being struck by a car on Pleasant Valley Way on Feb. 26.

Villarosa was on her way to the West Orange Board of Education meeting at the time and was struck while crossing Pleasant Valley Way near West Orange High School. The driver, a 55-year-old ...