Fire safety’s message hits home

September 16, 2011 Helen Klein
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It’s not often that an editor steps out of the shadows, comingfrom behind the proscenium to speak in his or her own voice.

But, sometimes, it’s not only the only thing to do, it isemphatically the right thing to do as well.

For me, that time came last Thursday, when – for the first time inmy life – I had a fire in my home.

It was a very minor fire – but it might have been a majorconflagration, had it not been for two things – a working smokedetector and the proximity and quick response of the FDNY.

For me, my experience – unnerving as it was — was a validation ofthe things I had written for years, and known intellectually, butnever experienced firsthand.

I was in the kitchen, around 9 p.m., peeling shrimp for dinner.There was no stove on; I was planning to barbecue. Then, suddenly,the smoke detector on the second floor of my home went off.

I trudged upstairs, grumbling because I assumed it was a falsealarm. Imagine my shock when I got to the second floor and wasenveloped by smoke coming from I knew not where.

The first thing I did was call to my son, the only other person athome. He and I did a quick, unsuccessful check to try and locatethe source of the smoke; after less than a minute, I decided toleave it to the pros and called 911.

It couldn’t have been much more than a minute before the first firetruck arrived at my home. In all, four trucks responded,representing an array of companies from three firehouses – Engine255 and Ladder 157 from the firehouse on Rogers Avenue nearFarragut Road; Engine 276 from East 14th Street, near KingsHighway; and Engine 248 and Battalion.41 from Snyder Avenue nearNostrand Avenue. The firefighters were quick, calm and kind -consummate professionals

It probably didn’t take the number of firefighters who filed intomy home to locate and tame the source of the smoke – a blackenedsurge protector in the study that had shorted out and begunburning.

But, given the scorch marks on the carpet underneath the surgeprotector, it was clear that – within only a couple of minutes – areal blaze would have started that could have engulfed mythree-story wood frame house, had the FDNY not arrived in a timelyfashion and put out the fire.

Neither of those things would have been possible had my smokedetector been out of order, because I never would have goneupstairs had the warning not being sounded.

Very possibly, as well, had the city decided to close down one ofFlatbush’s firehouses in an effort to save money, the firefighterscould have arrived from further away after a longer response timeto find an inferno.

As it was, the lingering smell of smoke and a burned carpet are allthe damage my home suffered. My son was safe. My four cats — allof which hid in hard-to-locate corners — were safe. And, mydaughter arrived around 10 p.m. to find not the scorched shell of ahouse but the home that has sheltered her for 22 years and willhopefully be there to welcome her back for many, many more.

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