MCFRS News Release
Prevent Fires - Save Lives - Here's How
Several Residential Fire a Cause for Alarm; Firefighters checking smoke alarms with ‘Safety in Our Neighborhood’ campaign
Nearly 20,000 homes visited and hundreds of smoke alarms installed
On Saturday, March 14, 2009 just before 3 p.m. units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service responded to a fire in a townhouse at 14509 Dunsinane Terrace, in the Bel Pre/Aspen Hill area. First arriving firefighters encountered a fire in the kitchen. The occupants (an adult female babysitting her two young grandchildren age 1 and 4) got out prior to the arrival of firefighters. An activated smoke alarm alerted them to the fire. All three occupants will be transported to a local hospital as a precaution for possible exposure to smoke.
In the last week Montgomery County emergency personnel have responded to many calls, and although all residential fires are significant to those affected, four (4) have particular significance - smoke alarms were present, activated and occupants escaped prior to arrival of firefighters.
On Friday, March 13, around 6:15 a.m., firefighters responded to 1510 Crest Road, in Silver Spring. Crews arrived on the scene of a 2-story Cape Cod single family home with heavy fire and smoke coming from the house. A smoke alarm had alerted the occupants, some of whom were sleeping, including 6 adults and 3 children. All exited safely and there were no injuries reported. Damage was estimated to be about $325,000. The fire is believed to be accidental, electrical in nature. Nine (9) occupants were displaced.
On Thursday, March 12, around 7:45 a.m., units and personnel from Montgomery and prince George’s County Fire and Rescue responded to 12313 Treetop Dr, at the Fairland Gardens Apartments, in White Oak. Firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke coming from several floors of a 4-story Garden style apartment building. A precautionary Second Alarm was dispatched. The buildings fire alarms had been activated and many occupants were able to self evacuate, some thru windows. However, firefighters did rescue one adult male via ladder from the 4th floor. Several pets were also removed from the smoky building. One adult male was transported with smoke inhalation and one firefighter injured a knee. Most importantly the building’s fire alarms were present and activated. Damage is estimated to be about $500,000 and dozens or residents were displaced. Fire Investigators believe the cause was electrical in nature and originated in a 2nd floor bedroom.
On Wednesday, March 11, just after 2:00 a.m., units responded for a house fire at 17604 Lafayette Dr. in Olney. Firefighters arrived to discover heavy fire coming from a 2-story split level single family home. A single smoke alarm activated on the second floor and awakened 2 residents. They self evacuated with their pets. Prior to the arrival of firefighters an adult male reentered the house to retrieve a cat. He retreated to the garage and drove car out thru the garage door to escape. One firefighter was injured with debris in his eye. The smoke alarm on 2nd floor activated, but the smoke alarm in basement was found without a battery and did not function. Fire Investigators believe the fire originated in the basement and was electrical in nature. Damage was estimated to be about $750,000 and the family of 2 and several pets was displaced.
On Friday, March 6, around 8:30 in the morning units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service responded to 17100 Hoskinson Road, in Poolesville for the report of a house fire. Firefighters arrived to find heavy fire and smoke coming from a large 2-story, wood frame single family home. A lone 2nd floor occupant was awaken by an activated smoke alarm. He self evacuated and apparently initially could not exit thru interior stairway and retreated out a window onto roof. He jumped to ground. Damage was estimated to be over $500,000. The cause may be electrical in nature and appears to have started on the first floor near the kitchen/utility area. There were no injuries. The family was displaced.
Collectively, Smoke Alarms were present and working in all of the aforementioned cases. There were no serious injuries, dozens people, pets escaped or evacuated and in one case firefighters rescued a person. Damage was significant and in just these four (4) incidents over $2 million in fire damage to structure and contents. Dozens of families were displaced. SMOKE ALARMS ACTIVATED - PEOPLE GOT OUT !!!!.
In 2008 five (5) persons died in residential fires in Montgomery County. This shows a marked and dramatic reduction from 2007 when thirteen (13) persons lost their lives in residential fires. In 2007 three (3) of the seven (7) fatal fire incidents involved multiple victims including a total of nine (9) victims in combinations of two, three and four at a time.
The U.S. Fire Administration cites the following statistics:
- Eighty-two percent of all fire deaths occur in the home.
- Having a working smoke alarm doubles your chance of surviving a home fire.
- Nearly one-third of the residential fires occur in homes with no smoke alarms.
- About two-fifths of residential fire fatalities occur in homes with no smoke alarms.
Regionally, Fire Chiefs are appealing for something to done this week and beyond. “Something has to be done. Somehow, someway, we have to get the word out to people and help people to protect themselves”, said Montgomery County Fire Chief Richard Bowers. Since November 2008, Montgomery County firefighters have gone door-to-door checking smoke alarms, changing batteries and talking to residents about fire safety and fire escape plans. “We now have more protection available for our homes than ever before and yet people are losing their lives because they seem to be not taking this protection seriously. No one thinks a fire can happen in their house”, added Chief Bowers.
Fire Chief Bowers says, “Any loss of life is tragic, but it is even more so when that death could have been prevented. Prevention and home safety first is what needs our focus.”
Even though Montgomery County has one of the lowest fire death rates, per capita, in the State of Maryland, in order to address the recent increasing death rate among seniors in fires, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and the Fire Chief accepted the Senior Citizen Fire Safety Task Force report at the end of October which made recommendations that may help solve the issue of seniors dying in fires.
Chief Bowers noted, “The Senior Citizen Fire Safety Task Force had a number of good people working hard to address this specific problem and troubling trend.” Almost immediately, Chief Bowers asked all firefighters county-wide to be part of the ‘Safety In Our Neighborhood’ initiative and check smoke alarms while concentrating on senior centric areas.
Fire Chief Richard Bowers says, “This is a busy time of year for firefighters in this region. The simplest thing a family can do to protect themselves from fire is have a working smoke alarm, on every level of their home, and have fire escape plan.”
Some recent incidents resulted in notable damage and major disruption while others were discovered early and were thus managed easily. Human factors, including appropriate and sometimes inappropriate human response to these factors affected the outcomes, some positive and dramatic, others not so good.
There are time-tested ways to prevent and survive a fire. It's not a question of luck. It's a matter of planning ahead.
Remember – the message is simple:
Develop an Escape Plan – Identify two ways out of each room in your home, identify a meeting place for your family outside, practice your plan at least twice a year when you change your clock. Once Outside – Account for all family members at your designated meeting place, call 911 from a safe location, never go back inside a burning building for any reason.
Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives – Ensure you have a working smoke alarm on each floor of your home, additional smoke alarms can be placed in sleeping and kitchen areas, test your smoke alarms monthly, change the battery when you change your clock twice a year, if your smoke alarms are powered by your homes electrical system consider installing battery powered smoke alarms as a back up in case of a power outage.