To the Editor:
The recent tragedy in Franklin and the lack of mention of fire safety compelled me to write this letter to the editor. Now, first I must say, I know nothing about the circumstances of the fire that happened, if the smoke detectors were working or not, I am just relating my personal experience of being in a house fire.
Many years ago, sometime in the middle of the night the furnace malfunctioned and the house caught fire. My mother, who liked to burn her food, had taken the batteries out of the smoke detector because she always made gobs and gobs of smoke when she cooked. Let me tell you this: fire is silent. It is not like on TV, with lots of cracks and pops and whooshing, or dramatic music. The effect is similar to when you are outside and it is snowing; the snow seems to absorb all the sound around you. Smoke must do something similar, because it had an eerie, noticeable silence to it.
The fire in the basement burned through the wires so there were no lights or electricity. Luckily my mother had diabetes and had to get up several times a night to relive herself, and I was woken up by choking and gagging downstairs. That’s probably the first time diabetes actually saved lives.
I, not knowing what was happening, stupidly opened the door and was engulfed in a wall of smoke. I can liken it to falling overboard from a boat into the water at night. Pitch black.
I was familiar enough with the house to know where I was by feel, but couldn’t think enough to get close to the ground so I basically held my breath. It was terrible. I was able to bang on my brother’s door and yell to jump out the window, ran downstairs, and got my mother and her dog out.
By the way, don’t count on the dog to alert you. The dog did nothing. In fact, the idiot dog ran back into the house and I had to go back in and get it.
I ran next door to call the FPD (this was before cell phones). A side note, the Franklin Fire Department were awesome, showed up really fast and were able to save the house from completely burning down. The members’ wives showed up with coffee and doughnuts; this was all at 4 a.m.! They gave us blankets and what not, as we didn’t even have shoes on.
There was no “if there’s a fire, I’d save my pictures, or such and such,” as people like to imagine. The main takeaway is this: don’t leave your smoke detectors disabled. Make sure they work. And if you have kids, be absolutely sure they know how to get out of the house.