It took the Baldwinsville, New York, Fire Department only three minutes to arrive at the scene of a recent home fire. The fire had already intensified to the point that a veteran firefighter couldn't make entry. He waited for the engine company's arrival.
Inside the home was two-year-old Nora Lamirande, who was napping in an upstairs bedroom while her mother and brother were outside enjoying the spring weather. The brother headed to a neighbor's home as the mother followed, only to return to see the structure in flames. Something left on the stove was the apparent catalyst, per a report on the incident.
Despite a valiant effort by firefighters, Nora died--in a home built only two years ago. Why this story, which highlights all the reasons why sprinklers in new construction are necessary, hasn't gotten more attention has baffled Fire Chief Rick Ennis, chair of the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition. He has shared a personal essay on the tragedy with NFPA:
Today marks one week since two-year-old Nora Lamirande's funeral, who died in a fire that occurred in a new home, in a new subdivision. A fire in a home that should have had a home fire sprinkler system. A fire that would have undoubtedly had a much different outcome had a home fire sprinkler system been provided and installed by the homebuilder.
Last night, I was checking online to see if there had been any updates regarding this fire. I was checking to see if any of the fire service agencies or fire service publication sites had picked up on the incident. Still nothing (again, if anyone can show me that I am missing something, please do so). I came across a story on Syracuse.com posted May 5 that reported that a Gofundme account set up for the family had raised more than $50,000 in one day. The report cited there had been 860 donations, ranging from $5 to $1,000, with one donor writing, "no one should have to bury a child."
I admire each and every person that made a donation to that account. But I find it sadly ironic and quite frustrating that we have allowed the National Association of Home Builders to convince everyone from consumers to politicians that a small fraction of that amount of money is “too much” to invest upfront to rapidly get water on a fire and keep this type of tragedy from occurring in the first place.
I realize this story is no longer “news”. The fire occurred nearly two weeks ago. Nora’s funeral was a week ago. Several other fire deaths, injuries, rescues and “big fires” have since made headlines. The story now is how in the world this fire seems to be passing under the fire service’s radar. I did get a reply from the NFPA that assures me they are looking into the fire. I realize that will take considerable time and effort to do so with the thoroughness required. I am just glad to know it is happening. I've received some interesting and valued feedback from others.
I wrote an initial response to this tragedy, where I stated "a home fire sprinkler system could have changed the outcome of this fire. We encourage all to research and learn more about this fire and ask the question: Why, in 2015, does a fire like this take a life in a newly built, single-family home?" I am not suggesting that reevaluating our perspective on fire sprinklers is the only way to improve fire suppression, firefighter safety, and service delivery, but I will not back off that it would be an improvement to all of these critical areas of the fire service.
In eighteen years as a fire chief, I have consistently avoided using the emotional “burning baby” appeal to justify anything. I am reluctant to allow this incident to be used in such a manner. I cannot claim to imagine how the mother or the family feels right now, nor how they will be moving forward. My intent is simply to use the opportunity this fire offers to create dialogue, to question the status quo. My hope is that at some point in the near future, this fire gets the attention it is worthy of, within the fire service, within the courts, and within political chambers. My hope is that positive change in the future can result from Nora’s death. My challenge to us all is that we all help ensure this happens.
Please share Ennis' essay via social media and email and help spread the word about this tragedy.