As fire officials investigate the fatal fire in Triangle, Va. that claimed the lives of three adults, I thought that I would share some thoughts, in the hope that this will not happen again. Though we do not hear about mobile home fires as much as in years past, mobile home fires are pretty devastating when they occur. Lightweight construction is an understatement in most mobile homes.
This fire was reported around 3:20 a.m., when the occupants were asleep. At one time, the percentage of fire fatalities, when occupants were sleeping, was 85 percent. Was there an adequate number of properly operating smoke alarms in this mobile home? This will be one of the things that will be determined in the days to come by investigators. My opinion is two-fold. Either there were no smoke alarms, or the rapidly intensifying fire quickly overcame the smoke alarms. Remember, smoke alarms are the only protection that we have, when sleeping, to notify us that a fire is burning in our home.
Most people die from smoke inhalation. The Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death in this case. Firefighters reported a hot and rapidly spreading fire, so much so, that a portion of the mobile home roof collapsed. Most mobile homes have two doors, one on the front side, and one in the back. The front door usually opens up into a family room, while the back door is down a hallway. With the primary exits located in this configuration, will your family know what to do if an exit is blocked by fire? Can everyone in your family open both doors?
Investigators will have to rule out foul play in this incident. In other words, did someone set this fire? This is hard to say, but a reality. Investigators will have to look at the location of the fire, and the location of the victims. They will have to rule out an intentionally set fire. If ruled out, then they will need to methodically determine the accidental cause of this fire that took three people’s lives. A few of the accidental causes could be improperly discarded smoking materials, an electrical malfunction, unattended cooking, or candles left burning.
If you live in a mobile home, what steps are you taking to prevent a fire? We used to run mobile home fires regularly. Whatever changed, that is a good thing, but you can never let your guard down. If a fire gets started in a mobile home, then it will progress rapidly. Your opportunity for escape, especially when sleeping, is based on early warning. Do you have enough smoke alarms to wake you up in the event of a fire? If your exit is blocked, though difficult, you may be able to break through a wall to get out. Remember, doors and windows are your best way out.
We need to learn everything we can about this fire in Triangle, in order that this will never happen again. If nothing else, though mobile homes may burn, how do we prevent loss of life? Your opportunity for escape may equate to a moment. Right decisions may mean the difference between a successful escape versus an unsuccessful one. Please do everything possible to prepare yourselves.