Research has shown that some people; the hearing impaired, small children and even teens; do not respond at all or respond very slowly to smoke alarms. Given that the amount of time needed to escape from a burning home is measured in minutes, the obvious conclusions can be drawn. The report on the fire (click here to read the fire marshal's report) supports the fact that one of the residents was not awakened by the alarm.
Other questions regarding the fire and the general condition of the home are yet unanswered. I have yet to speak to the fire marshal, who is now busy preparing a report of investigation on a subsequent fire on New Year's Day. Unfortunately, any further details from the victims of the fire are now unavailable as I have learned that either the landlord or his insurance company has threatened to sue the tenants over the loss of the rental. My one phone conversation with one of the renters was, therefore, limited in nature and revealed nothing regarding either the fire or the general condition of the rental home. My contact with another individual close to the family also has been effectively limited by the threat of legal ramifications on an eventual suit. Unless this incident actually goes to court, we, the people of Bellingham, are unlikely to learn more about the fire. Similarly, insurance investigations on this property and on the same landlord's property on Grant St. that burned earlier in 2011 - click here to read about that- are not public documents. Again the public is denied information that affects the health and safety of all renters in Bellingham.
As for the terrible fire in a rental on 24th Street, which ushered in the New Year for our fire department, the fire marshal's report has yet to be issued. That fire, which seriously injured members of the MacGregor family, also appears to have originated with baseboard heating. This may indicate that there is a more generalized problem regarding electric baseboard heating. (Read a report from the National Fire Protection Association on selected baseboard heating fires by clicking here.) Furthermore, none of the press reports has indicated the presence of operable smoke alarms in that rental. I will have further information on that blaze later this month.
[See below for information on efforts to provide support to the victims of this most recent fire. This information was obtained from the Bellingham Herald article of 8 Jan 2012:
"- Volunteer to collect donations at White's storage unit outside her home, 1029 22nd St. Call 360-305-4419 for more information.
- People can donate money to the MacGregor Family Benefit Account at any Peoples Bank location.
- A local Girl Scouts troop is raising money to buy the family a desktop computer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit supportmacgregors.blogspot.com for details."]