Friday, April 19, 2013


Fire Sentry is a bi-monthly post dedicated to keeping you safe from fire through the experience of other who have been victimized by this natural phenomena that is present everywhere in our society.  We in the fire service routinely critique past fires in hopes of identifying what went right and wrong and sharing those experiences with other jurisdictions in hopes that their fire ground operations benefit in the future. In the same spirit, it is our hope here at Crosshair Fire Investigations and Safety Consultants that you and your family learn from the incidents told here in Fire Sentry.  Become your family's personal Fire Marshal by holding your own critique and discussing these incidents with loved ones, it just may save a life.  ALWAYS REMEMBER, HAVE AN ESCAPE PLAN AND WORKING SMOKE DETECTORS!

Incidents presented in this post are taken from the bi-monthly publication of the National Fire Protection Association's 'NFPA JOURNAL'.  Specific incidents are found in the 'NEWS + ANALYSIS' section titled 'FIREWATCH' composed by staff writer, Ken Tremblay.   


Alaska- A 92-year old woman living in a basement converted into a separate apartment unit with egress to the outside was found dead of smoke inhalation when a cookbook sitting to close to a stove-top heating element caught fire.  A battery operated smoke alarm had been installed in the first floor hallway of the single family structure, but not in the converted basement living unit.  There were no sprinklers in the home.

Reported by a neighbor at 01:28 p.m., firefighters were confronted  by neighbors warning them that an elderly woman may still be inside and so crews immediately switched from attack mode to rescue operations.  Unfortunately, the resident was found by firefighters near the door leading to the outside where she had no viable vital signs and was determined to be deceased.

Fire investigators determined that the 92-year old victim turned on one of the heating elements to boil water for a cup of tea, sadly however, a cookbook was dangerously close to the element and consequently ignited due to the radiant heat.  Investigators hypothesize that the next closest fuel package, the kitchen cabinets, ignited from the heat energy being given off from the cookbook and from that point to other combustibles within the kitchen.


It must be noted here for all of you taking care of elderly parents or have a loved one just living alone that may have physical or mental challenges , that the victim in this fire was barely ambulatory and suffered from dementia.  Older adults, ages 65 and older, are considered a "High-Risk" group by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA),  and therefore deserve special attention when it comes to education and prevention. 

For example, did you know that adults 65-75 are two times more likely to die in a fire than the general public?  And that number increases again one more time or 3 times more likely for those aged 75 and older?  I will be submitting a article addressing high-risk groups in my next post.

Washington- Two elderly folks succumbed to their injuries suffered in a fire that began in their single-wide mobile home after a cigarette fell undetected onto a sofa cushion in the living room.  One victim, a 71-year old gentlemen who was pretty much confined to the sofa and on home oxygen therapy, was found deceased in the area of origin.  The other victim, a 70-year old woman was found unconscious on the sofa by firefighters.  Rescuers performed CPR and advanced life saving techniques, however, they were unable to revive the victim and she, like the male, died of smoke inhalation.

Oregon- A 70-year old woman died of smoke inhalation after a cigarette she was smoking ignited her oxygen tubing while on home oxygen therapy.  The victim was discovered unresponsive and face down on the living room floor by her husband who had just arrived home at 10:25 p.m.  It was reported that the single-wide mobile home did have a battery-operated smoke detector, but the fire was to small to activate it.

Investigators hypothesized that the victim ignited the plastic nasal canula that was feeding her oxygen while lighting a cigarette; burn injuries discovered around the deceased's mouth and nose confirm this theory.  Additionally, investigators found the canula in the kitchen sink which they surmise was pulled off by the victim in an attempt to put the fire out.  Sadly, lethal toxicants from the burning plastic had already done so much damage that the victim, already suffering from lung disease, could not survive the ordeal.


North Carolina-  An 83-year old great-grandmother saved two children from a fire in a single-family home, but not before one other child died and the woman rescuer being transported to the hospital with burns suffered during the rescue.

The fire originated in the living room of the single-family home which in addition to the obvious household furnishings also contained a Christmas tree , kerosene heater, and two-5-gallon (18-liter) containers of fuel.  The cause of the fire has been classified as "undetermined", however, investigators did note that the fuel contributed to the rapid spread of fire in this incident.

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