Council may ban hot lamps for safety concern

By Laura Grandt

Rooming houses and private residence hall residents soon may be subject to the same restriction as university housing residents — no halogen lamps.

An amendment to the DeKalb Municipal Code is under consideration by the DeKalb City Council to ban the lamps in all rooming houses and private residence hall. The amendment, if passed, would not carry over to NIU residence halls because of jurisdiction, said DeKalb Fire Chief Lanny Russell.

Rogene Montgomery, housing administrator of Student Housing and Dining Services, said halogen lamps have been banned in residence halls for as long as she can remember.

Halogen, or torchere floor lamps, are defined by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission as “free-standing lamps with a shallow bowl-shaped light fixture mounted on top of a six-foot pole and illuminated by a tubular halogen bulb.”

The vast number of halogen lamps found in rooming houses upon annual inspection was one of the main reasons for the proposal. Many of these lamps did not have the required safety guard on them, Russell said.

Firefighters found a poster draped over a halogen lamp at 831 W. Taylor St. in an upper-floor apartment over the one in which a fire occurred on Feb. 10. A candle was the official cause of the fire, but Russell said the halogen lamp may have added to the blaze if firefighters had not checked the upper floor to see if the fire had spread.

“We felt that we wanted to be proactive before we had a tragedy in DeKalb,” Russell said.

The amendment is in the consideration stage, said 3rd Ward Alderman Steve Kapitan.

“My impression from the meeting was that it sounded like a good idea,” said Kapitan, before adding that opposing arguments, if any exist, have not been made yet.

Kapitan could not be specific about terms of the amendment because the city council is waiting for the ordinance to be presented.

He said he got the impression that other members of the city council also thought the measure was a good idea, but added that the potential opposing arguments would have to be taken into consideration before a decision could be made.

“Our purpose is not to punish people; our purpose is to gain compliance and make buildings safe,” Russell said, adding that it is not yet known what will happen to residents of rooming houses found to have halogen lamps during annual inspections if the measure passes.

Torchere lamps are dangerous because of the heat generated and the bowl shape at the top of the lamp, Russell said.

“A 500-watt halogen lamp can generate 1200 degrees,” said Russell, adding that anything that falls in is probably going to catch on fire because of the interaction between the shape of the bowl and the heat. The top must be shaped as a bowl because of the heat generated by the bulb.