Sunday, November 7th, will mark that date on the calendar when Daylight Savings time ends. Aside from being able to possibly recapture an hour of sleep, this time-frame also represents an opportunity to inspect our home smoke alarms/detectors and ensure they have 'operational readiness.' Should your home not be equipped with this essential life-saving device, then please attempt to take advantage of the Mayor's Free Smoke Detector Program: simply call 630-CITY and see if you qualify for delivery and installation of your free smoke detector today!
Unfortunately, the pre-dawn hours of Veteran's Day, more specifically just after 4 AM on November 11, provided yet another illustration as to the importance of having a working smoke detector as part of every family's home fire safety plan. Following a 9-1-1 call placed by a neighbor noting heavy smoke and flame swirling around a single story, single family house in the 7600 block of Crest Drive North, first due engine company 32 arrived on scene and confirmed that the residence in question was, indeed, fully involved. The fire was so heavy upon arrival that exposures to the immediate left and right were already showcasing significant exterior structural fatigue, with siding melting off the facade while the main fire continued to roar, with areas of the front yard even on fire. Alarmingly, the initial reports included the information that the occupant was a retiree, an elderly gentleman who resided at that address all by himself. With the raging flames making any rescue attempt through the primary search an impossibility, the crews on scene could only hope that nobody was at home or had already made it out to safety, possibly mulling about with the other onlookers gathered at the incident. As the fire was gradually subdued, a process that continued to include protection for exposures while also featuring a partial roof collapse of the burning home, the realization that the structure would be classified as a total loss clearly came to light. After calling the fire under control nearly 25 minutes following the first arrival of the emergency responders, the long and manpower intensive operation of extinguishing hot spots, performing overhaul and, sadly, performing a potential body recovery, could now begin in earnest. With the clock striking 6:30 AM, the tragic remains of the elderly man were discovered in a front bedroom, buried beneath a large amount of charred debris comprised of miscellaneous items ranging from books to roof components. A working smoke detector, however, was not found among the rubble.
Saturday morning November 13, at approximately 1:30 AM, units were summoned to respond to several 9-1-1 calls originating on Valencia Street indicating that a single family, single story home had fire reaching skyward from the roof coupled with heavy, black smoke engulfing the rest of the structure, sidewalk, and parts of the street. Engine 10 arrived on scene and promptly confirmed that the home was fully involved, with an adjacent exposure also now catching on fire as flames from the original house fire had snaked their way through a window and into the attic of the house next door: a home that was less than 10 feet away. Upon hearing this, Command issued a Second Alarm assignment that soon resulted in 50-odd uniformed personnel on the fireground. The fire was called under control in just over 30 minutes but here again, just as it had been a few days ago, the fear of discovering a body buried beneath the remains of the burned out house was quite legitimate: after all, the heavy flames had prevented any reasonable attempt at a primary search from being executed. This apprehension soon proved unwarranted, as it was learned that the previous occupant had just moved out of the house a day ago, the vacant nature of the dwelling soon confirmed by crews performing overhaul and hot spot extinguishment. The fire was deemed suspicious, with the investigation still ongoing to determine both cause and point of origin.