Thursday, September 3, 2009

Three years

As of today, there have been 1040 residential fire fatalities this year, compiled by the US Fire Administration's Quick Response Program. This list is compiled from the media, meaning that there are undoubtedly fatalities that aren't on the list because they didn't make the newspaper. You can see the list here.

Three years ago today, our house burned.
Last year, I posted a description of the events of the day.

Today, we still have not gone through all the boxes of stuff that was packed up by the cleaning company, but we have gone through a lot of them. We have donated, given away, and thrown away a lot of it. While not down to the level we hope to eventually reach, we have far less "stuff" in our house now, and that's a good thing.

As of last month, when my daughter joined, we now have three of the four of us in the fire service. While I had been interested in the fire service for most of my life, and my oldest had some interest before our fire, there is no escaping that the fire was quite... motivational.

It is the beginning of the school year, of the academic semester at local colleges, and this means that a lot of people are going to spend their days in large buildings with crowded conditions, and a lot are going to be living in dorms, also often crowded, or at least, high occupancy.

Take fire safety seriously.
While the most common causes of residential fires may be unattended cooking or that all-too-famous "carelessly discarded cigarette," causes that might be avoidable, they do not all begin that way. Sometimes, there is no warning.

What happens is this: an emergency, by its nature, happens suddenly. You don't have time to think, to decide, to make rational choices. You may be in an unfamiliar building. You may be asleep. There is no way to know.

Make your plans NOW, before things go wrong. Practice them.
You may want to make changes in your house. More smoke detectors. Fire extinguishers. Escape ladders. Furniture arranged so that windows are accessible. Less clutter. Care with the placement and loading of outlets or extension cords. Appliances unplugged when not in use.

If it feels like you are so prepared that no matter what happens, escape will be easy, so you don't need to worry about it- that would be great!

I guarantee you that you do not want to suddenly find yourself inside a burning building, with no protective gear, holding an empty fire extinguisher, facing a fire that is growing exponentially, hoping that your children and pets are already outside. You do not want to hear the fire destroy everything it reaches, or see your house full of smoke down almost to the floor. You don't want to stand in your yard, waiting for help to arrive, wondering if you will have anything left, or where you will go, what you will do. You don't want to hear the firefighters with a chainsaw on your roof.

Trust me on that.

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