Second alarm

Let me start by saying that this article will hit very close to home and may be extremely raw for some that may read it. In the early hours of Sunday morning, the first fire unit was faced with heavy fire conditions and multiple fire victims, with one person still inside. Incidentally, of the five victims that escaped before the first fire unit arrived, one had to jump from a second floor window. Firefighters were advised that one person was still in the dwelling. With heavy fire on the first floor, firefighters conducted one of the most dangerous operations, known as Vent-Enter-Search, where firefighters entered the second floor via a ground ladder with active fire below them. Firefighters experienced zero visibility and high heat. The victim was located and removed via a ground ladder. Basic and advanced medical procedures were immediately administered, however this patient succumbed to their injuries.

How did this fire start? Reports indicate that improperly discarded smoking materials caused this fire. Cigarettes burn at 550 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than enough heat to start a fire in most combustibles. An appropriate butt-can, metal with sand, might have prevented this fire from occurring. It took some time for this fire to get started. This family went to bed, never expecting what they would wake up to, just after 2 a.m. I did not hear whether there were properly placed and operating smoke alarms in this home, but the fire, heat and smoke spread rapidly, once the fire got going.

This fire made conditions difficult for firefighters with full protective equipment with self-contained breathing apparatus. In other words, conditions rapidly deteriorated and anyone inside may have had only one chance to escape, if that. This was a house where I believe that the occupants were familiar with the layout. The problem comes when you wake up from a dead sleep, with a rapidly progressing fire, disorienting and noxious smoke, and extreme heat everywhere that is not burning. Smoke alarms and a residential sprinkler system are the only devices that might buy a family enough time to escape a fire like this.

What would you do if this were your house? When was the last time that you tested your smoke alarms? You sleep on the second floor; my recommendation is that you sleep with your door closed. I know that you can give me a number of reasons why you must keep your door open. If you sleep with the door closed, smoke, heat and fire may be slowed from entering your bedroom. When you awaken from the smoke alarms activating, you need to roll out of bed, staying close to the floor. Go to your door, and feel the door with the back of your hand. If it is hot, do not open it! Instead, stuff blankets or clothing under the door. If the door is cool, open it and check the hallway. Back to the hot door, turn your light on, and open your window. You will need to get the screen out, in case you have to leave via the window. If you have a rescue ladder, deploy it and climb down. If you have no rescue ladder and cannot get to it, then you may have to hang and drop, if fire conditions dictate. Keep in mind, small children and pets will have to be helped out of a burning building. Once you get out, you must not re-enter the building for any reason. Have you ever practiced a home escape plan? As firefighters know, you play the way you practice. “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Will you be ready if the next fire strikes your home in the middle of the night?     

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