Fire Chief: Safety First!

In the aftermath of 2 recent devastating blazes, Westport Fire Department Chief Michael Kronick says:

This past week, New York City and Philadelphia suffered deadly fires that claimed the lives of 31 people. Our hearts go out to the victims, and to our brothers and sisters at the FDNY and the Philadelphia Fire Department who struggled so valiantly to save them.

Whenever you hear a fire alarm sound, head to the nearest exit and leave the building. If you see fire or smell smoke, call 911 immediately. When you escape a fire, close the door behind you. Every closed door slows the spread of the smoke and fire. This buys you more time to escape and protects others as well.

A Philadelphia Fire Department official said that at least 4 smoke detectors in the rowhouse did not go off during the fire. If you have a smoke alarm with removable batteries, make sure you replace those batteries every 6 months. It’s best to do it when you change your clocks twice a year.

A FDNY Fire Marshal reported that the Bronx fire was likely caused by a space heater that had been running non-stop for several days. Space heaters are not intended to be a 24/7 heating source. They can overheat, overload electrical circuits, and ignite flammable material, like furniture cushions, if the heater is too close.

Whenever you use a portable heater, set it up a safe distance from anything that can burn, never use an extension cord, and check the heater to make sure it’s operating correctly.

Many of the victims died from smoke inhalation while trying to escape, in corridors and stairways. In a high-rise building, toxic smoke can move faster than you can. So, in a high-rise fire, never enter a space that is smokier than the one you’re in.

If the corridor is full of smoke, do not enter it. Stay where you are, close the door and seal it off with towels or blankets. If you’re heading down the stairs and conditions get worse, leave the stairs and shelter on another floor.

Most importantly, have an escape plan and practice that escape plan before you need it.

The fires are terrible tragedies, for the victims, their families, and the first responders. Our heartfelt sympathies to the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured. We are reminded of the devastating impact of fire and the need to do more to prevent them in the future.

As we mourn the loss of these lives today, we must use these tragedies to continue efforts to ensure the public and communities prioritize fire safety – in particular the use of smoke alarms, escape planning, and educating our most vulnerable.

6 responses to “Fire Chief: Safety First!

  1. Veri Krassner

    Thank you for acknowledging this devastating loss of life, and for providing such important lifesaving information. My heart goes out to all of the family, friends and neighbors of those who perished.

  2. All of the safety measures mentioned should be drummed into school children. Parents should take note . No one thinks it will happen to them. But it can.

  3. Amy Schnieider

    Thank you, chief, for acknowledging this tragedy with this public service announcement, Wise words we should heed for our safety.Two self-closing doors malfunctioned which added to the smoke that permeated through the building. My heart goes to the families.

  4. I am going to guess the space heater was being improperly used versus it being defective. I can’t tell you how many times I see people plugging them into power strips and incorrect gauge extension cords (best not to use an extension cord at all). After Sandy my building had power from backup generators on certain outlets and zero heat. I was able to find one of the last space heaters and 10 gauge extension cords (after calculating that I needed 10 gauge for the distance to “safely” operate). Newer space heaters have fail safes for tipping over and overheating but don’t forget electronics do and can fail, not too mention these fail-safes will not do much of anything to prevent a power strip or electrical cord from melting/shorting/catching fire. During the holidays I am notorious for ripping out incorrect gauge cords and cheap power strips relatives use for higher power draw items and throwing them in the trash.

  5. Great advice…and an important reminder of how precious life can be. When in a hotel or building, I take a mental note of how many doors it is to an exit. Additionally, if you are caught in a smoke filled room GET as low as you can as smoke obviously rises.

    • Might want to also take note whether they have a smoke CO detector, especially AirBnB. Pre-pandemic I had to carry one with me when I traveled, I was amazed how many lacked.