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Gas heater harms University students

Jan. 31, 1997

By Ashlee Ross

Lariat Assistant City Editor

An aged gas heater is the apparent cause of a fire which injured two University students Tuesday.

Victor Trevino, an Acapulco, Mexico senior, was lighting his girlfriend's gas heater at the Autumn Chase apartments at 1408 S.10th St. when it caught on fire.

Cynthia Wahlin, a Downers Grove, Ill., junior, suffered burns on her legs when the heater caught on fire.

'She has her CD player next to the heater,' Trevino said. 'She was putting a CD in, and I was lighting the heater. It threw out a burst of flame. I grabbed her and pushed her back and I fell on my legs and ankle.'

The rug caught on fire, and Trevino used a mat to smother the flames.

The couple went to the Baylor Health Center Wednesday. Trevino hurt his ankle while falling and is waiting on the results of an X-ray. He is now on crutches, and Wahlin is continually putting ice on her legs.

Trevino reported the incident Wednesday to Campus Realtors, the company that manages Autumn Chase.

'They came immediately and put in a thermostat, but only in that apartment,' Trevino said.

The owner of Campus Realtors said that tenants haven't complained about the gas units in the past.

'There are probably hundreds of apartments, houses and condos with gas heat,' Stewart Kelly, Campus Realtors owner, said. 'Autumn Chase is an older apartment in relation to Baylor standards, but we do routine service checks.'

Wahlin said she had called maintenance earlier to have her heater cleaned.

'I can't turn it on and leave it on because it's really dusty and dirty,' Wahlin said. 'I had called them previously because it [the heater] has to be cleaned internally.'

Other Autumn Chase residents have had similar problems with their heaters. Mark Bloom, a Coppell graduate student, said that while turning on his heater earlier this year, he heard gas escaping the heater, and flames shot out in front of his face.

'They are old and they don't work real well,' Bloom said.

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