Although they will never see my article, my words to the St. Louis firefighters who rescued four children, all 5 and under, are: “Job well done!”
Those firefighters were dispatched to an apartment fire after a passerby noticed smoke coming from the second floor. Firefighters did not know that there were four small children in the apartment, but they did their job and did it well. They conducted a primary search of the fire apartment, found the four children, three of which were in cardiac arrest. One child was in a closet, one was in a doorway and two were in a small tent. This entire operation was a team effort that required the work of about 40 fire and emergency medical personnel. Firefighters and medics are well trained, and their training and discipline resulted in all four children surviving.
There is so much to talk about from this one fire. I will start with the fact that these four young children had been left at home alone for an extended period of time, per news reports. It has been reported that the mother was charged with four counts of child endangerment. Under no circumstance should children be left unsupervised, much less left at home alone, especially those 5 and under. There is no excuse that can be given for this.
Although the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, or I have not heard a cause, I do want to offer some thoughts. I read several news reports that said that the fire started in the front of the building and all four children were located in the rear of the apartment. It is normal for children to hide from a fire. From the moment that I heard about this fire, I believed that these children may have had something to do with starting the fire. Young children are curious about fire. Given access to matches, lighters or burning candles, they very well may play with fire. The cause may be determined to be something else, but the children cannot be overlooked, especially children left alone in the home. One news report stated that the children were in the front of the apartment and then ran to the back of the apartment, to get away from the fire.
The next problem was the lack of working smoke alarms. In rental properties, a proper number of properly-operating smoke alarms is the responsibility of property owners or property managers. If I lived in a rented home, apartment or mobile home, I would ensure that there was a proper number of smoke alarms, and I would know that they worked. The lack of operating smoke alarms in a rented building where people live, is negligence on someone’s part. There is a good chance that these young children would not have known what to do when the smoke alarms activated, but operating smoke alarms could notify building occupants.
Chesterfield Fire & EMS teaches first-graders about smoke alarms, and uses a Fire and Life Safety trailer to teach second-grade children how to escape when smoke alarms activate.
You might say, what can I learn from a St. Louis apartment fire?
My answer would be that this type of fire could happen in Chesterfield County at any given moment.
Whether you live in a rented or owned home, get up and check your smoke alarms and make sure that they work. If you think that you need more smoke alarms, then make that happen. Teach your children what to do when smoke alarms activate.
As stated by St. Louis fire officials, these four children are alive by the grace of God.
Do not let something like this happen here!