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Fire tragedies you should share

Take the time to share these stories with your communities so your citizens can learn lessons

I read up on fire deaths in the United States, with hopes of learning safety messages to pass on to you and to the communities that we serve. Many times, there are important lessons to be learned. Many times, the needless loss of life just breaks my heart.

The following stories are real heartbreakers, so take the time to share these stories with your communities so your citizens can learn lessons.

Our first story comes from Virginia, where an early morning fire blocked the primary escape path out of the single-family dwelling, killing two people and injuring 11.

There were no smoke alarms in the home (there’s lesson number one), and the family used only the kitchen door to enter the house.

The front door was in a living room that was converted to a bedroom that was shared by five boys. The door was locked, blocked and never used (lesson number two).

As this fire started in the kitchen, their primary escape route was cut off. The parents awoke and went to the back of the house in the girl’s area of the house.

The father broke a window and was able to get eight children out. The mother was hurt and walking around the neighborhood, not knowing where to go (another lesson about meeting places here).
The cause of this deadly blaze was a pan full of food and oil left burning on the stove after everyone went off to bed (still another lesson).

Our next story happened in Illinois, where a fire started in the basement bedroom and killed a man and a boy living there. It seems they were unable to escape because the front door had an interlock device on it, whereby the front door is locked with a key from the inside as well as a way to work the lock with a key from the outside (a lesson here).

While trying to escape, they made it to the door but did not have the key and were overcome by heat and smoke and died just one door width away from safety.

This home was also without a working smoke alarm (another lesson, right?), and was started by an open flame that was too close to the bedding on the bed (again, another lesson).

This may have been because the boy was playing with the matches or a nearby candle that was too close to the bed.

Finally, a Wisconsin woman fell asleep while smoking in a chair. She awoke, but only made it as far as the kitchen before collapsing. Can your citizens come up with a lesson here all by themselves?

There aren’t that many new and exciting ways to die from fire. It is the same ones, repeated over and over, approximately 4,000 times per year in the United States alone.

Let’s take a few minutes to go over this information with your community, have them plan ahead for how they would escape if their home were hit by a fire, and stress the importance of installing and testing plenty of smoke alarms in their homes.

Tom Kiurski has been in the fire service since 1981. He is the Training Coordinator and Director of Fire Safety Education for Livonia, Mich., Fire & Rescue. He has served as a firefighter/paramedic, engineer and lieutenant prior to his appointment as the training coordinator. He has earned an Associates Degree in Fire Science from Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich., a Bachelors Degree in Fire and Safety Engineering Technology from the University of Cincinnati and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Eastern Michigan University. Tom teaches fire service-related courses at local colleges and fire academies. He has presented at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis seven times, as well as numerous state and local conferences. He has written more than 300 articles on fire safety education and training that have appeared in various fire service publications. Contact Tom at

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