Fire prevention starts with smoke alarmsBR

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 7, 2004

Tribune editorial board

In an instant, life can become deadly; one's home can become hell on earth; and a simple mistake can have horrific consequences.

Fire. The almost mystical creature can destroy life and property in a moment's notice. Each year house fires kill hundreds and hundreds of people across the country.

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The bad news is: Fire does not discriminate. Fire claims young and old alike. Fire kills rich and poor together.

Experienced firefighters will tell you that hearing that someone is trapped inside a burning building is the most sinking feeling in the world. Sometimes, despite having the best firefighting equipment, firefighters find themselves helpless bystanders watching the horror unfold.

The good news, or maybe it is better to say "great" news is that many of the house fires each year in America can be prevented.

Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association show an alarming problem. Fortunately, 95 percent of households in American have at least one smoke alarm. But that amount is not good enough. It's not good enough for two reasons.

First, even one fatal fire is too many and as long as fatal fires occur, our society should work hard to locate them.

Second, half of all the fatal fires that occur in America result from the 5 percent of American homes without a smoke alarm.

Such a statistic is staggering.

How many of those lives could have been saved had smoke alarms been present inside those homes? Sadly, we'll never know.

This week, fire departments across the country are working to educate the littlest among us on the dangers that house fires possess.

We thank the firefighters for their hard work, sacrifice and now their educational efforts.

The ultimate goal is to eliminate fatal fires from the United States and with a little hard work we can reach that goal. But it starts with one smoke alarm at a time.