Fire can happen to anyone—just ask New Milford, Connecticut, Fire Marshal Karen Facey. Facey’s powerful account of her own recent brush with fire can be found in the “Perspectives” feature in the January/February issue of NFPA Journal.
Fire “doesn’t care where you live, how much money you make, how much you care about safety, or what you do for a living—even if you’re a fire marshal,” Facey writes in her personal account. “I had certainly felt human, and fallible, when I realized my kitchen was on fire; in that moment, I was less a highly trained fire professional than a homeowner faced with a critical split-second decision.”
After spending a recent Saturday driving her two teenage children more than 300 miles to their various events, Facey dropped the kids off at their father’s house and set to work melting some wax on the stove in preparation for a candle-making project. Tired at the end of a long day, she went to bed without properly turning off the stove and woke to smoke alarms blaring and “a column of flame shooting from the stovetop, 50 feet from me,” she writes. She was able to put the fire out with water, but her embarrassment was palpable, especially when sharing the story the next day at a training for volunteer firefighters.
“The bottom line is that working smoke alarms saved my home, and there is a strong likelihood that they saved my life and the lives of my pets,” Facey writes. “Fire and public safety professionals should use my story to help urge their audiences to change their smoke alarm batteries immediately and test them monthly. … If this message can encourage or cause one person to change their behavior, then it is worth every iota of embarrassment and judgment coming my way.”