Why you need a working smoke detector
Clive Family Saved by Smoke Detectors!
(Scenario Described by Lt. Matt Sonnenburg)
It was a relatively warm December morning and I was the on-duty officer for the Clive Fire Department. At approximately 1:45 am, we were dispatched for a working house fire. A working fire means that someone has actually seen fire or smoke coming from a structure. I hurried to get dressed and rushed to the duty car. A quick response is important, because at this time of the morning the chance of people being home and not aware of a fire, is likely. I arrived on scene and the police officer advised me that everyone was out of the house. This took my mind off the primary concern of life safety and allowed me to focus on coordinating the fire attack. There was definitely a fire and we needed to work fast to get it stopped.
I talked to the residents to obtain some information and make sure they were all okay. I found out they were in bed when they heard the smoke detector go off. They got up and smelled the smoke as they moved down the stairs and out the door.
After our crews put out the fire, I entered the house for a look and was amazed. The fire started in a dining room located next to the stairs. These stairs are the only way down from the upper level. All the choking smoke and deadly heat were moving directly up the stairs and filling the upper level. It is difficult to comprehend how anyone could exit down those stairs unharmed with all the evident smoke and heat damage in the stairwell. I talked to the residents again and they stated that the smoke detector activated soon enough to allow their escape before the smoke and heat were too intense. Looking back to all the fires I've been involved in, these people are together and well today thanks to their smoke detectors. If they had not been awakened by the smoke detectors, I am certain the stairs and hallways would have been impossible to get through. The smoke and heat would have filled them like a chimney, before anyone asleep in the bedrooms knew a thing.
As firefighters, we are always trying to convince people of the importance of smoke detectors and new batteries. I wish everyone could see the heroic job that an inexpensive battery and cheap, plastic detector did to keep these people from harm that morning.