When Tragedy Strikes Home [again]
On a typically quiet night, the on-duty platoon of the Lancaster Bureau of Fire was called into action “once again” to perform rescue and recovery of trapped occupants in a residential dwelling. As was all too familiar, a residential fire on February 18th of this year claimed the lives of two Lancaster City residents, injured others and critically injured several first responders, one [firefighter] suffered second and third degree burns. Investigations revealed that although these structure(s) contained smoke alarms, all “of the detectors” were rendered useless due to dead or missing batteries.
This most recent fire claimed the lives of seven occupants, adults and children. The origin of the fire has been determined to be the kitchen, the cause, unattended cooking.
To date at this press time, unofficially in Pennsylvania, there have been 87 residential fire deaths, many of which are still under investigation to determine the origin and cause of the fires. At this time I must note that none of the deaths were in sprinklered buildings.
According to FEMA publication, FA-250F/May 2007, “In the event of a fire, properly installed and maintained smoke alarms will provide an early warning alarm to your household to get out. This alarm could save your own life and those of your loved ones by providing that chance to escape”.
There are several types of smoke alarms, ionization and photoelectric, dual sensor types as well as alarms that contain strobe lights that flash, to alert the hearing impaired, and vibrating alarms for the visually impaired and combination units. Learn the features and applications of all the available detectors to meet your individual needs. And of above all, know your means of escape and practice your preplanned escape drill with everyone who lives and sleeps in your building.
Keep in mind, the owner of the building in which you live, the landlord, is not responsible for your possessions in case of fire loss or theft, it is yours. Renters insurance is affordable. Insure your possessions for actual replacement value only.
If you have any questions or require any additional information, contact your local fire and emergency services or log on to www.usfa.dhs.gov/citizens/.
Ed Knight is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI/CFII) and a fire instructor; a retired municipal assistant fire marshal, forensic investigator having investigated several thousand fires and testified over 60 times throughout the United States and several foreign countries. He is Chairman of the Live Burn Facility, Pequea Lane, Lancaster, PA.