Mass. FFs praise teacher who reacted to student's smoke alarm during Zoom class

Brockton fire officials said the teacher directed the student to evacuate, managed to figure out the child's address and alerted the fire department

Cody Shepard
The Enterprise, Brockton, Mass.

BROCKTON, Mass. — Elizabeth Doyle's fourth grade Raymond School class returned from lunch on Friday, joined their remote Zoom classroom and seemed excited for the rest of the day.

But that excitement quickly showed itself in a different way.

"They were all excited to be back in, but Teresa (Rosario) was yelling to me, 'My fire alarm's going off, my fire alarm's going off,'" Doyle said. "The kids got even more excited, so I muted them all to hear her."

Doyle said it's been common during remote learning — Brockton Public Schools have been remote since the beginning of the school year in mid-September — for teachers to hear occasional beeps during classes because a house's smoke detector has a low battery.

But this time wasn't just a low-battery beep.

"I could hear the fire alarm," Doyle said. "I asked her, 'Do you see fire? Do you see smoke? Do you smell smoke?' She's like, 'I smell smoke,' so I'm like, 'Oh, my God, is anyone home? Get out of the house. Get 'em out.'"

Teresa, 9, started yelling for her sisters to get out of the home and began leaving herself.

That's when Doyle said she noticed the looks on the faces of her other students.

"I was so focused in on her, I wasn't focused on the rest of my kids. Their eyes and mouths were wide open. I realized this was probably traumatic, so I closed out the Zoom."

Doyle then found two phones — one to call Teresa on and another to call the Brockton Fire Department.

"I gave them the address and told them there was a fire," Doyle said.

The fire department responded to the Ellis Street home shortly after noon.

Inside the basement, firefighters found a "contents fire," where some clothes were burning after a stick of incense fell into the pile. The fire was contained to a small area.

"We were on the easy end of this, I feel bad for the teacher, who had to try to figure out where this child is, what the address is," Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Galligan told WCVB-TV.

Meanwhile, Doyle said she had emailed her principal and school to inform them of what had happened. But, in no time, she was getting messages from her students looking to get back into the virtual classroom.

The entire incident became a learning experience for her all of her students.

"The guidance counselor and vice principal came in the Zoom and we had a talk about what had happened," Doyle said. "We asked the kids how they were feeling. They expressed concern for Teresa and shared stories. We talked about fire safety, which they've been learning in health class. It was a big lesson."

Teresa said she was thankful to her teacher.

"I'm thankful she did something to help," Teresa told WCVB.

"I'm thankful for the teacher, Ms. Doyle, that she did what she did to keep my child, my children, safe," Griselle Quinones, Teresa's mother, told WCVB.

Deputy Fire Chief Edward Williams, one of the department's fire investigators, said the teacher's actions likely prevented a larger fire.

Although Doyle said teachers deal with all kinds of different distractions during remote learning, a fire was a first for the 23-year Brockton teacher.

"Thankfully the fire department showed up quickly and put out the fire and Teresa and her family are safe with not much damage," she said. "It could have been a disaster. Thank God it wasn't."


(c)2021 The Enterprise, Brockton, Mass.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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