We have seen a number of fires reported, both locally and nationally. Every one of these fires either resulted in the loss of lives or had the potential to hurt people. As I talk about these fires, please realize that I have no inside source, and will make statements, based upon what was reported on the news and my years of experience. There will be some things that will pertain to every fire, and then there will be things unique to each incident. My hope is that this article will prompt you to think about fire safety like you think about locking your house each night.
Let’s start with the fire in Chicago that killed two young children. This fire was caused by a hot plate, used for heating, which had fallen into a pile of clothing. The glaring issue in this fire was that there were no adults at home at the time of the fire, and the children had been left in the custody of a young sibling. We have seen this issue year after year. The incident does not always result in a fire, but something happens that causes children to be injured or killed. Keep in mind, we only hear about the incidents where something goes wrong. How many times are children left alone that we never hear about? Another common thread to this incident was what Chicago firefighters were seen doing, immediately following the fire. They were canvassing the neighborhood, giving out smoke alarms. I do not remember hearing whether or not this home had working smoke alarms, but I have to assume not.
One Henrico fire that occurred, made a father a hero in my mind. It was the garage fire with a bonus room above where his daughter lived. The fire was caused by a combination of extension cords and a space heater in the garage space. Extension cords should not power a space heater, due to the fact that most cords are not capable of carrying the load necessary to power the heater continuously. The area where the daughter lived was not protected by a working smoke alarm. Once the daughter knew that the building was on fire, she went to the door and found it very hot. Remember, when you check a door, check it with the back of your hand. The reason that the door was hot was either due to extreme heat from the fire below or fire being outside the door. Her only means of escape would be a window. Her option, had no one been home was to hang and drop from the windowsill, utilize a rescue ladder or wait for rescuers to arrive. In this case, her father threw a ladder to her window and helped her onto the ladder where they climbed down together.
Although I did not hear much about the Henrico apartment fire, I was thankful to hear about the young men that reacted to seeing the fire by knocking on doors and helping people to escape; their actions saved lives. If you live in an apartment, then you are at the mercy of those living in your building. Cooking related incidents still account for the highest number of residential fires in America; supplemental heaters are a close second during this time of the year. I do not know what caused this fire; whatever caused it was probably common to every home. The point is that every apartment building has four to12 apartments per building, multiplying the potential for a fire. If you live in an apartment, you must get renter’s insurance, if you hope to replace what was destroyed by someone else’s carelessness.
The last fire that I will briefly mention took the life of an elderly lady in Richmond. I, again, know very little about this fire. I do not know about the presence of smoke alarms, or whether or not there was a physical disability. Fires are exceptionally dangerous for the very old and the very young. Others must assist the very young, while many elderly people live alone. The ability for an elderly person to escape is difficult at best, so every means must be made to prevent a fire at all cost. Working smoke alarms that are properly placed give everyone the greatest chance of escape and survival.