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Families call for change to off-campus housing
CINCINNATI (Angenette Levy) -- The families of two UC students who died in a fire in off-campus housing are pushing for changes in the state fire code in the hope of preventing another tragedy.
On New Year's Day 2013, Ellen Garner and Chad Kohls were sleeping in an attic that had been converted into an apartment. The fire started on the second floor of the house on Digby Ave. Garner and Kohls tried to escape through the window but an air conditioning unit was blocking it. When they tried to escape by going down the stairs, they were overcome by smoke.
"Ellen and Chad left us enough clues to the panic they went through that. To really how trapped they were," said Ann Garner, Ellen's mother.
Ann Garner said she does not want another family to lose a child the way that she and her husband lost Ellen. The Garners and Chad Kohls's parents want the state fire code changed for single-family homes that have been converted into apartments. The families want the state to require landlords to have two exits for apartments above the second floor. Ann Garner said landlords could comply with the changes they're calling for by installing a fire escape or a permanent escape ladder.
"The cost is $260. It's a one-time cost. It's made out of steel and chain. It can hold a thousand pounds. It's attached permanently under the egress window," Garner said.
The Garners and Kohls are left with memories of their children.
"He was a great young man. He had a caring heart. He was a hard worker," said Anne Kohls, Chad's mother.
Rod Garner said he found out how much his daughter helped people after she passed away.
"Ellen was just a sweet young lady. She gave us almost 21 years of nearly pure joy," Garner said.
The Garners and the Kohls hope the loss they've suffered will lead to changes that could save lives.
"Give them what they need to be safe. If that's accomplished then we've done our job and Ellen and Chad did not die in vain," Ann Garner said.
State Sen. Bill Beagle is sponsoring the bill. He expects some resistance to it from landlords. If the bill passes, landlords would have six months to make improvements.
Last year, the city of Cincinnati set up a website so students could check to see if properties had passed fire inspections. The home on Digby Ave. was not in compliance with fire codes.
To find out if a property has passed fire inspections CLICK HERE
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