"In my 27 years with the Memphis Fire Department, I have never seen this amount of victims in one incident," Lieutenant Wayne Cooke with the Memphis, Tennessee, Fire Department, told local media outlets following a fire that killed nine people, including five children, in a home fire on September 12. Another child was in critical condition at the time of this blog's posting. "We sincerely pray for this family and for the loved ones of this family."
The fire's cause is still under investigation, but Department Director Gina Sweat said the incident is the deadliest single fire in the city since the 1920s. "Nothing in our training can truly prep us for this heartbreaking event."
Sweat told a local NBC affiliate that the fire had started in the living room and contained only 20 percent of the home, but heavy smoke had spread rapidly and contributed to the deadly outcome. Once firefighters extinguished the flames in 15 minutes, many become emotional by the enormity of the loss.
UPDATE: Since this post was published, the child in critical condition has died, according to a the Associated Press. The Tennessee State Fire Marshal's Office determined that an air conditioner's malfunctioning power chord caused the fire. The office is now urging the public to "take a stand against fire" by ensuring homes have working smoke alarms, developing an escape plan, and considering fire sprinklers when building or purchasing a home. According to a recent news story highlighting the office's suggestions, "home fire sprinklers provide the best fire protection currently available."
“NFPA sends its heartfelt condolences to the family of the 10 victims," says Jim Pauley, NFPA's president and CEO. "While mourning the loss of lives taken too soon, we’re reminded of how home fires still plague our society. We fully support the State Fire Marshal’s Office in taking a stand against fire. Make sure you have working smoke alarms, practice home escape planning, and consider fire sprinklers when building or buying a new home.”
Did you know there have already been more than 1,500 media-reported home fire deaths this year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration? See how your state fares, and do whatever's in your power to promote home fire sprinklers, which can end these horrors.