Fire alarm failed to go off in River Forest house fire


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By Megan Dooley

Staff Reporter

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.

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Posted: March 9th, 2011 11:10 PM

Great advice from everyone. I'm reminded of the tragic death of Oak Park Fire Department Lt. Patrick Luby. He was overcome by smoke when his breathing apparatus became stuck under a stair step. Lt. Luby was only a few feet from safety and fresh air. Despite valiant efforts by his crew to free him ; Oak Park lost a dedicated firefighter and loving husband and father to his young family. Many residents will remember the outpouring of support from neighboring fire departments. A sad day.

Andrew from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 10:08 PM

Teach your family how to evacuate the home calmly and in the dark, because smoke makes the house very dark. Agree on a meeting place outside and remember no possessions in the house are worth dying for.

`susan from oak park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 7:44 PM

We recently had a fire in our Oak Park home. What saved our lives- my three year old and infant twins- was the fact that our kitchen contractor had insisted that we follow village code and install smoke alarms in each of our bedrooms. We followed his advice, Thank G-d, and as a result our lives were saved. if not, i don't even want to think what would have happended. Please neighbors-make sure you have working smoke alarms in all of your bedrooms, take it from our experience, it can save your li

Don from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2011 5:12 PM

As we spring forward this weekend, it's time to change the batteries in smoke detectors throughout the house. Don't forget to recycle those used batteries.

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