Theodore and Aspasia Kiapos, killed in a recent California home fire. Photo from GoFundMe
A series of deadly incidents all within the past month confirms the enormity of North America's home fire problem--and the people impacted by them.
Married for more than half a century, Theodore Kiapos and his wife, Aspasia, were killed in a recent California home fire. Both were sleeping when the fire erupted, reports the Los Angeles Times. Rescuers found and revived the couple en route to the hospital, where they later died from their injuries.
"By the grace of God, though the fire took nearly everything that belonged in my family's history, many of their photo albums, including their wedding albums remain," stated Sophia Kiapos, the couple's granddaughter, on a GoFundMe page she established for the couple. "Unfortunately, immense damage has been done to the property, as their home of 50 years no longer stands with life, and only remains in ashes."
On the opposite side of the country, four people--including an eight and a 10 year old--succumbed to smoke inhalation from a home fire in New Hampshire. The cause was an improperly discarded cigarette that smoldered on a piece of upholstered furniture before erupting into fire, according to a news report. State Fire Marshal William Degnan, a staunch advocate for home fire sprinklers (watch NFPA's interview with him), noted the importance of properly discarding smoking materials to the media.
Another fire in Chicago left four firefighters injured from backdraft conditions inside a home. After pinpointing the fire's source, the heat and size of the fire quickly surged, forcing the firefighters to quickly seek safety. "As the firefighters make entry, you may have a fire just sitting there, and the only thing it's lacking is oxygen," Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Jose Santiago told the Chicago Tribune. "In order for firefighters to get in there, they're going to open doors, and it will start feeding that fire. Sometimes, it's like an explosion. They're engulfed in fire."
All firefighters received first- and second-degree burns from the fire.
Derita Conley, one of the home's residents, described to the newspaper her relief that her daughter and two grandchildren safely escaped the fire. Her home, however, was an unfortunate casualty of the blaze. “I’m just in a state of shock that this happened. I lost everything. Everything was brand-new.’’
These incidents aren't anomalies. They're the realities of today's home fires. Please do whatever you can to alert your town's decision makers that home fire sprinklers are the solution and need to be seriously considered. Even a simple email to your local legislator will get home fire sprinklers on their radar. Use NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative's free resources to assist you.