From the Firehouse: Make fire safety a priority

'Seven Children Perish in House Fire'

I only wish this were not a true headline. However, on Friday, March 20, 2015, this very incident happened in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Midwood in Brooklyn, N.Y. The victims ranged in age from 5 to 16. The mother and oldest daughter jumped from a second-floor window and are in critical condition. The father of the family was out of town on business.

Investigators believe a hot plate left on a kitchen counter set off the blaze that sent flames up the stairs, trapping the children in their second-floor bedrooms as they slept. Many religious Jews who observe the Sabbath refrain from working, in all forms, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday — including using electricity and they very often leave appliances on for 24 hours. (In multi-story buildings, the elevators work automatically and without button activation during this period and are switched to “Sabbath” mode for 24 hours.) The only working smoke detectors found in this two-story home were in the basement, with none on the first or second floor.
It is always hoped that we can learn from a tragedy such as this. The members of the Wilton Fire Department implore all of our residents to make a fire safety inspection of their home a few times a year. On the heels of this tragedy, take a few moments to look around you house as soon as possible.

  • Check all smoke alarms for operability and fresh batteries. As a matter of regularity, change your batteries when you change your clocks twice a year.

  • If your system is tied in to a central station, test the communication link and make sure they are getting your signal.

  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm on every level of your home. One in every sleeping room is best in addition to the halls and other common areas of your home.

  • Have a home escape plan and practice it with your family.

  • Check your appliances for frayed wires and purchase only UL-listed equipment and take old electrical appliances out of service.

  • Avoid the use of extension cords and if you must have one (temporarily), never run them under carpets, runners or mats.

  • If you have a fire extinguisher, ensure it’s properly charged and that you know how and when to use it.

  • Keep flammable and combustible liquids and gases outside, or in a detached shed.

  • Make every week, fire prevention week.

Your fire department continues to stand by to assist you with your home fire safety efforts. Call the Office of the Fire Marshal, Monday-Friday from 8 to 4 at 203-834-6249 for assistance or if you need a smoke alarm for your home or apartment.