An early morning fire in Strathcona, southwest Calgary claimed the life of a woman who depended on a wheelchair for mobility, injuring her husband and son. The husband escaped but went back inside to try to put out the fire with his home fire extinguisher, and was unable to do so because the fire was too large. A neighboring hoiuse sustained extensive damage.
It is sad that examples like these have to be used to illustrate the importance of home fire sprinklers and to debunk some of the opposition arguments as follows:
Opposing argument: Smoke alarms are enough.
Fact: Smoke alarms do a good job in providing early warning but according to NFPA research, high risk populations (young children, older adults, the disabled) are dying in home fires at a disproportionate number and may need the additional time provided by home fire sprinklers to escape, or to be rescued.
Opposing argument: Why not just require fire extinguishers in the kitchen?
Fact: Fires don’t always start in the kitchen and home fire deaths occur in other living areas of the home. Over 40% of fire victims who die, do so attempting to fight the fire. The husband in this home fire, who valiantly attempted to put out the fire with his home fire extinguisher, suffered injuries while doing so.
Opposing argument: Fire in the home only impacts the homeowner, it should be a matter of choice.
Fact: A fatal home fire impacts the entire community. It begins with these grieving survivors, having to mourn the loss a loved one, and having to deal with their own injuries. Burn injury survivors require lifelong support to recover from them, as found on the website of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. According to the Burn Survivor Resource Center; “burns are one of the most expensive catastrophic injuries to treat. For example, a burn of 30% of total body area can cost as much as $200,000 in initial hospitalization costs and for physicians fees. For extensive burns, there are additional significant costs which will include costs for repeat admission for reconstruction and for rehabilitation.” The long term effects of home fire burn injuries are often not discussed in the home fire sprinkler debate but perhaps it should be brought to the forefront.
This fire death also impacts an entire neighborhood that must deal with the loss of a neighbor/friend. It impacts the lives of the firefighters who responded to the fire, both physically and emotionally. In this particular case the neighboring home suffered extensive damage. The home where the fire ocurred will have to be demolished and will remain off the tax rolls for some time, impacting community revenue.
I pray for this family and the community of Strathcona as they deal with this loss. Every fatal fire reminds me how important it is to continue to advocate for fire sprinklers in homes. With the continued assistance of advocates in the field, we will prevail.