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Friday, November 19, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 64

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Many bonfires have fallen victim to safety concerns; UH plans to review safety policy

By J.R. Gonzales
Daily Cougar Staff

The Texas A&M University bonfire is the largest and best-known in the state, but it isn't the only one. Several schools hold similar events, and many have found their fires snuffed in recent years.

Although this year's UH Homecoming bonfire was canceled due to an outdoor burn ban in Harris County, Dean of Students William Munson said campus officials will review safety policies in light of Thursday's tragedy at A&M.

He said the University routinely looks over its safety procedures, but explained students do not construct the bonfire stack. The Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and the Homecoming Committee oversee construction, but Reliant Energy/HL&P does the work.

At Rice University, the Homecoming bonfire -- which was also canceled this year under the burn ban -- cannot exceed 12 feet in height, width and length.

The Rice athletics department coordinates the event, but an outside contractor sets up the site, a Rice spokesman said.

Sam Houston State's bonfire construction was done by students with no staff supervision, Assistant Director of Student Services Carlton Green said. SHSU has suspended its bonfire due to safety concerns.

"It wasn't really a university effort, and we really needed it to be if we want to do it properly," Green said.

The Sam Houston bonfire, called "Firefest," was a homecoming event at the school until officials decided to reschedule it to coincide with the football game against Stephen F. Austin State University three years ago.

James Hoard, director of public affairs at SFA, said the school has no formal policy when it comes to bonfire setup. The height limit is 20 feet, and advisers from SFA's College of Forestry oversee construction.

In Lubbock, restrictions keep Texas Tech's bonfire stack from exceeding a height of 14 feet. "They've gotten big in size, but they've never got six stories tall," said spokesman Michael Sommermeyer.
 

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