Unfortunately, in the past few weeks, there have been two terrible incidents where people were killed or suffered third-degree burns because they did not take the time to plan an escape route from a building in the event of a fire. What's more, they did not have fire extinguishers nearby that could have saved them.
First, in Gettysburg, PA, three men suffered serious burns in a garage fire in late May. William Rexroth, Jerry Shultz and Randy Beck--all are around age 50--were in a garage working on vehicles when a fire broke out, according to Pennsylvania State Police. The garage door was closed, so it was difficult and time-consuming for them to get out, police said. They eventually broke out windows and escaped. All three suffered third-degree burns. Rexroth and Shultz were taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital and Beck was taken to the Johns Hopkins Burn Center.
Any time you are in a work area such as a garage, you must make sure that there is not only a clear escape route but also good air ventilation into the room so that if a fire does break out, you do not get overcome by smoke inhalation within seconds. Also, these men should have had a fire extinguisher nearby, as they were handling flammable liquids that were in and around the vehicles they were working on.
The second incident took place in Brockton, MA. For years, Lisa Trevains had overcome personal struggles - alternately living in a homeless shelter and sleeping in the woods -- but one Friday night in May she faced her greatest challenge. She had to dial 911 to report that she was trapped in the basement of a burning apartment building.
Hampered by heavy smoke, firefighters eventually found the 46-year-old woman's body in the basement of the building. After the fire, a state fire marshal questioned the legality of the basement apartment where Trevains was found.
The fire marshal said that defective electrical wiring caused the fire, which left nine people homeless. "It was an issue of faulty wiring in the ceiling level between the basement and the first floor," he said, adding that he did not know at the time if the building had smoke detectors.
It was also not clear if the basement of that building had received an occupancy permit. Brockton's mayor said her staff had stepped up code enforcement over the last year to end illegal basement and attic apartments.
"She was talkative, friendly; a real good person once you got to know her," said a friend of Trevains named Webber. "If you needed a cigarette or clothes or coffee money, she'd give it to you."
We'll say it again: Without having an escape route when you are in an enclosed place, and without having a fire extinguisher nearby, you are taking a life-threatening risk by ignoring basic fire safety.