Mother of fire victim promotes campus safety

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Her son was killed in a fire in his college dorm more than a decade ago. Since then Gail Minger has made it her mission to promote fire safety on campuses across Kentucky.

Monday, Minger visited EKU to help launch a new community service project that hopes to partner students with firefighters to make a safer university.

Fire is a serious thing. That's the simple, but critical message fire safety advocates hope students will take away from a live burn demonstration at Eastern Kentucky University. It's a message that Gail Minger has fought to deliver since her son Michael Minger died in a Murray State University fire back in 1998. "We were very, very close," Gail Minger said, "and I carry him in my heart every day."

A grand jury recently indicted the man prosecutors say is responsible for starting the fire that killed Michael Minger. A 2001 mistrial left the case unresolved. Now after more than a decade, Gail Minger says the new charges have brought back strong emotions. "Well, it's been a roller-coaster a bit, but I really try to focus on the positive, and that's the living students," Minger said, "It's students just like that young man, when he was 22 years old and made the decision to start that fire, it's people like that that probably didn't understand the devastation of fire."

That's why Minger has devoted herself to helping those she can by raising awareness of fire safety on college campuses. "My passion comes from honoring Michael and honoring the living students because they all deserve a chance," Minger said.

35-year-old Jerry Wayne Walker, who now works as an assistant principal at a Paducah middle school, faces charges of manslaughter, arson, assault, and 14 counts of wanton endangerment for the 1998 fire.