We must discuss it

A Christmas Day house fire claimed the lives of three children and two adults in Stamford Connecticut. As I have read through the accounts of a community that has been devastated by this incident, I am compelled to do everything possible to prevent this from happening to anyone that reads this column. Let me present the facts, as I know them:

  • 3 a.m.- An occupant removes embers from the fireplace
  • 5 a.m.- The fire department is summoned to the scene
  • There was a news report that stated that there may have been a delay in the fire department being notified
  • The house was under renovation
  • The house was supposed to have hard-wired smoke alarms after the renovation, but it was unsure if the home had battery-operated smoke alarms

Fireplace ashes hold enough heat to start a fire for days. If the ashes are removed from a fireplace or woodstove, then they must be placed in a metal container and placed outside, away from other combustibles such as a woodpile. In this case, the fire rapidly spread into the home, engulfing the first floor, and then progressing to the second and third floor.

If any house needs smoke alarms, it is the one that is being lived in while being renovated. Renovation usually indicates exposed structural members and openings that permit faster fire travel. My assumption is that there were no working smoke alarms in this house at the time of this fire. I will admit that the fire that I saw could quickly overpower smoke alarms, but the more detectors present, the better the chance that at least one will go off. Remember, smoke alarms are the only means of early warning in the event of a fire. There should be at least one smoke alarm on each floor and one in the vicinity of the kitchen. I read an article that stated that houses built before 1976 were not required to have smoke alarms.  

If there was a delay in the fire department being notified, these are the things that usually cause that:

  • Occupants attempt to fight the fire
  • Occupants attempt to rescue family members
  • The fire goes unnoticed due to the time of the fire

I would say that this fire progressed very rapidly. The only chance that a family has to escape from a fire like this is with operating smoke alarms and a practiced home escape plan. The first floor was apparently cut off by fire, leaving windows as the only means of escape. As difficult as this statement is, “Get Out and Stay Out.” Firefighters are the only ones trained and outfitted to get people out of a burning house.

My heart is broken for this family, but to not discuss this fire means that those five people died in vain. This family’s lives have been changed forever. My prayer is for comfort for the family, and action on the part of every person that hears about this fire. Prepare your home and family. Fires are no respecter of rich or poor. My heart also goes out to the firefighters that did their jobs at a catastrophic scene.  

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