A fire in Coatesville overnight killed a mother and her young son. The fire began in one row home and quickly spread to two others. The young family was trapped in an upper floor bedroom and unable to escape. According to fire officials, there were NO working smoke detectors in their unit of the building.
A young married couple with a seven week old baby was much luckier. According to an interview the mother gave to CBS3, she and her husband were awakened by their smoke alarm. When they opened the door of their bedroom, they found smoke in the hallway and the stairwell impassible. They quickly pounded on the door of their neighbor to make sure he was awake and able to respond to the danger and then, in order to escape the building, they climbed out their bedroom window onto a roof above a porch. Once there, they called 911 and waited for emergency workers to bring ladders so they could get down. Watch the video of this interview below.
Their call may have saved other neighbors in the building. When firefighters arrived, they found eight people on the porch roofs and several still inside the building.
The Red Cross is helping 38 residents who were displaced by the fire with food, shelter and other basic needs. Eight of those people were children. The working fire alarm warned residents in time and allowed them to call for help for themselves and their neighbors.
Coatesville Fire Chief Lentz says in the CBS interview, “if there were working smoke detectors throughout this occupancy, the outcome may have been different.”
The Red Cross will continue to do everything we can to make sure that people are prepared for a fire disaster. The first and most essential step is to make certain your home has a working smoke detector with fresh batteries, preferably one on every floor.
Beyond that, it is important to have a plan of escape in case of fire. The family with the infant and others who were rescued on the porch roofs did the right thing: they found a method of egress that worked, they called 911, and they waited for rescuers to help them.
We urge you to be more informed about fire safety. Please read all about smoke alarms and escape routes on our website here. A document explaining the risks posed by fire is here. A fire prevention and safety checklist is here.
Fox News interviewed a neighbor who was deeply shaken by the tragedy. She had wise words for all of us when she said, “fire is so fast and it’s so devastating you can’t do a thing but run. Life is lost, that’s the worst. You can bring back things but you can’t bring back a mom and her baby. This is so sad.”