By Megan Dooley
A mother and young daughter made it safely out of their River Forest home, the afternoon of March 8, after a fire broke out in their basement, despite the failure of their smoke detection system to deliver an emergency alarm.
River Forest Fire Chief James Eggert said the homeowner and child, approximately 3 years old, were waiting outside in the yard when he arrived at the scene at 1105 Franklin. The mother had made the call to the fire department after she and her daughter noticed smoke and fled the home at 1:46 p.m.
Eggert said fire officials quickly determined the fire was coming from the lower level of the house, but conditions worsened rapidly as crews ran a hose down to the basement. The fire chief said the house filled with heavy, thick black smoke, from floor to ceiling.
It took crews about 15 minutes to extinguish the flames, which had originated in a basement mechanical room. "It was extremely hot in there," said Eggert. "The firefighters did an outstanding job in a very difficult situation. We're very fortunate that we didn't have anybody hurt in there."
Eggert said the house was outfitted with a smoke detection system, but it didn't operate properly. The fire chief said the situation proves why people should be vigilant about testing their smoke and carbon monoxide systems at least every six months. "I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a working fire alarm system in your home," Eggert said. "Fortunately, this fire did not happen at 3 o'clock in the morning, or we would have had a more tragic situation."
Officials have not yet determined the cause of the fire, but Eggert agreed with reports that the child was the first to smell smoke, and quickly alerted her mother.
"We're hearing that too," he said.