Safety concerns hope to protect bonfire for future generations
By Ann Elise De Belina
Published on Friday, October 13, 2006
As the members of the Class of 2010 look forward to lacing up their running shoes for the Homecoming bonfire, a dedicated group of individuals are busy constructing plans to maintain the safety of everyone who attends the traditional festivities. Behind every fiery emblem of school spirit and pride, stands a mixture of trained professionals, public security, dedicated administrators and passionate students that has made make the bonfire construction and execution a safe reality every year for the past 109 years.
Such a large undertaking requires the utmost planning and caution. At the University of Texas A&M in 1999, 12 students were killed during the construction of its Homecoming bonfire. A log collapse which entrapped many of its volunteer builders has tainted the much-beloved tradition.
"After Texas A&M, Dartmouth hired a group to assess the structure," Mark Lancaster, sergeant at Safety and Security, said. "While their structure was made of logs, ours is made of square timbers."
The group charged with constructing the bonfire is equipped with hard hats, gloves, supervisors and a lull that lifts the heavy timber, Joann Brislin, Assistant Director for Physical Education, said.
"A very detailed plan...has been laid out over years and years of construction here, during which there have been no accidents. It has been very successful," Brislin said.
The bonfire construction began at 9 a.m. on Thursday and is scheduled to be completed on Friday. As soon as its construction is complete, Safety and Security will stand guard around the structure.
Twenty-three regulations regarding the bonfire construction can be found on the Dartmouth website. The bonfire is built from square-cut, non-treated lumber. It is designed to contain 33 tiers in the star-shaped base of the structure, 22 tiers in the next level, a hexagon shape and seven tiers in the square at the top.
Despite the careful planning, a few injuries are still expected once Bonfire night rolls around. "We usually see a lot of twisted ankles, mainly from the running," Lancaster said. "We've had some burns in the past."
Understanding the risks inherent in participating in the bonfire festivities, Bonfire Chair Cory Cunningham '10 hopes for a hazard free evening come Friday.
"We want a safe, fun bonfire to reflect upon our class," Cunningham said. "This is the first unifying event of the class of 2010."