Anyone who knows me knows that the British period drama, Downton Abbey, is one of my guilty pleasures. Set in a fictional Yorkshire County estate, the television series depicts the lives of an aristocratic family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era.
I sat down with a cup of Earl Grey the other day to watch an episode and as the drama unfolded, a careless act by one of the main characters, Lady Edith, not only gave viewers some nail biter moments, but a reminder about heating safety.
Distraught because of the child she must keep secret, Lady Edith throws a book at the fireplace in her bed chamber. As she cries herself to sleep, the book catches fire and lands on the floor. Flames spread throughout the room.
Lady Edith’s emotional state is understandable, but if she had been thinking clearly, she would have left the book on her nightstand and shut down the fireplace before going to bed. NFPA’s heating safety tips sheet says to keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment and also provides a reminder to turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
The Lady Edith story line has a happy ending. A heroic act on the part of an under-butler saves her life and everyone in the estate–family, servants, and guests–escapes quickly and in orderly fashion.
But the image of the bed chamber engulfed in flames offers a searing reminder of why it’s important to practice fire safety.