Firefighters determined to make a difference after most recent fatal fire claims the lives of two small children and their great-grandmother.
It was a typical Friday evening for the Zarate family. The family had settled in for the evening, with their four children tucked away in their bedrooms, while the adults stayed up late to watch the NBA finals. The children’s mother and father fell asleep in the living room, but were awakened by a fire that had broken out on the kitchen stove, spreading smoke and toxic gases throughout the home. What followed in the next few minutes were frantic efforts by the children’s parents, neighbors and firefighters, who managed to rescue two of the Zarate children, but sadly, their brother and sister were lost along with their great-grandmother.
An accidental kitchen fire, the most common type of fire in the nation today, had claimed the lives of two precious children and the family matriarch, devastating their family and deeply affecting all those that knew them and all those who responded to assist. The fire scene was a somber one with neighbors and even veteran firefighters, EMTs, and Law Enforcement Officers left visibly shaken by the loss.
In response to this tragedy and last year’s loss of three children in the Tamina Community, Montgomery County Firefighters and their partners have launched a regional safety initiative, urging residents to “Get Alarmed” and make sure their home has working smoke alarms in every bedroom and hallway.
During a routine medical response on 9-11-2017, Firefighters from Conroe Fire Department’s Engine 3 noticed a chirping smoke detector while inside a residence on Ave J in Conroe. The crew asked the occupant if they could install 3 new smoke alarms for her while they were there. The resident gratefully took them up on their offer. The fire crew consisted of Lieutenant Lloyd Sandefer, Firefighter Sean Semora and Firefighter Ryan Shely.
Approximately 3 months later, on New Year’s Eve, the Conroe Fire Department responded to the same location for a structure fire. The resident was home alone and in the shower at the time of the incident. The occupant stated that she heard the smoke alarms installed by the Firefighters going off and quickly got out of the shower to investigate. She reported seeing fire on the stove top and spreading to her cabinets as she exited the home. She summoned help from neighbors
who called 911. As a result of the proper working smoke detectors, she was able to get out of the house safely and damage to the structure was reduced.
Lieutenant Lloyd Sandefer reported that “Due to the layout of the house, this fire call could have possibly had a much worse outcome if there were no working smoke detectors present to alert the occupant of a fire in her kitchen. The fire could have progressed further, blocking off egress to the front of the home, making escape for any occupant very difficult. ”
Traditionally we see a spike in house fires during colder weather. We are experiencing extreme winter weather this year and would like to remind citizens to ensure their smoke detectors are working and to be careful with space heaters. Space heaters cause about one-third of all winter house fires and 80 percent of all winter heating fire deaths.
NFPA Statistics on Smoke Alarms
– Three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
– In reported home fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate, almost half (46%) of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries. Nuisance alarms were the leading reason for disconnected smoke alarms.