The stairs may not be available to exit during a house fire!

    submitted by John C. Kernan, IAAI-CFI (V), Chief Fire Marshal FM-272, Upper Makefield Township

    The mother, father and two children, ages eight and six, survived this house fire by jumping from the second floor bedroom window at 12:30am.

    The fire’s area of origin was in the kitchen and the cause was electrical failure-arcing at an extension cord in close proximity to combustibles -kitchen towels!

    There was a smoke alarm in the kitchen and one at the top of the living room stairs (pictured) but they were not working.

    By the time the fire in the kitchen had progressed to the wooden wall cabinets, the smoke had accumulated at the ceiling level and reached over 800 degrees.

    The smoke started to travel from the kitchen to the dining room, then the living room and up the stairway to where the family was sleeping. Smoke always takes the path of least resistance.

    A working smoke alarm in the parent’s bedroom activated and alerted the family to the fire that was raging below them downstairs.

    The family would have normally exited the home by going down the living room stairway but the super heated toxic gases and smoke now streaming up the stairway had already reached temperatures in excess of 600 degrees.

    There were no flames or observable fire present on the second floor of the home as stated by the parents.

    They awoke to the sound of the smoke alarm activation and observed nothing but complete darkness and extreme temperatures at the ceiling. Staying low under the smoke level, they began screaming and shouting to each other and were able to quickly gather together in the parent’s bedroom and escape through the window.

    Minutes after they all jumped the temperature in the hallway adjacent to the bedroom was reaching 1000 degrees.

    The one working smoke alarm that was in the parent’s bedroom saved the lives of this family of four!

    This intense fire was spread not by flames but from smoke!

    The super heated toxic gases contained in the smoke are what fire investigators and firefighters call “black flame.”

    Smoke alarms are your first line of defense but they need to be working! Test them monthly, replace their batteries annually, and gather as a family to discuss what needs to happen when they go off.

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