SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


So Where Is The Social Outrage?
By Kelly T Nicolello


February 10, 2008
Sunday PM

Another child has died as a result of fire and all I hear is the sound of silence! My kids are grown and on their own, if they were here I'd hug them and let them know I loved them one more time. If this child had died as a result of someone carelessly leaving a loaded weapon where he could get it or if he died at the hands of a drunk driver someone would be going to jail. It seems other issues like second hand smoke around children, saving the trees at Russian Jack Park and deciding where kids play little league get more social community activism than a child dying in a fire.

Children are known to be fascinated with fire and "playing" with it knows no limitation or advantage of economic or social standing. Most of us have done it and survived to be embarrassed by it. As a community, we establish laws to protect those who cannot protect themselves but tragedies continue to occur. The western world view fire in a home as an accident and, tragic as it is, when a family looses all of its earthly possessions; we step up and help get them restarted again. I applaud that kind of community action; from the fire department response, assistance provided by the Red Cross and Salvation Army type organizations to personal donations, compassion with action is what separates our nation from most others. However, where is the community action to ensure this tragedy does not occur again? Why is it socially acceptable to have a fire in one's home? Why are the apathetic, neglectful and irresponsible actions of people rewarded with "victim" status when the fire was totally preventable? Outraged yet? Good, you should be. There needs to be a cultural shift that makes preventable fires socially unacceptable, like smoking, drunk driving, poaching, and spitting on the side walk.

"But isn't it the Fire Department's job to keep me safe?" No, it isn't. The Fire Department's job is to respond to accidents and acts of uncontrolled nature to limit the effects of fire, explosion and panic. It is our responsibility to keep ourselves and families safe from these effects by taking proactive measures within our homes and business so we don't have fires that are preventable. The tools to do so are readily available. Anyone who wants them can get them nearly free of charge or in relationship to the cost of replacing your home, get them very inexpensively.

The community mandates the use of smoke detectors, Fire Departments throughout the state have given them away by the thousands and still complacency reigns. If a working smoke detector had been in place it could have alerted other family members and chances are very good that that child would still be alive. If matches and lighters had been in a location where he could not get to them he would still be alive. If residential sprinklers had been in place he would still be alive. If we could just roll back the clock a few hours and put a new battery in the smoke detector and put the matches away he would still be alive. Instead, we have a family who have lost their home and will forever second guess their actions, suffer guilt, pain and remorse for their loss.

What has the community lost? The person who could have discovered a cure for cancer, a future father, a fishing buddy, a future CEO, doctor, lawyer, well maybe not lawyer. The point is we will never realize the sum total loss of this child's potential contribution to society.

What has our community gained in light of this family's loss? How about the opportunity to be thankful that this did not happen to any of us? The opportunities to educate, to get mad, to take action and pledge to ensure each of our families are safe from fire by keeping matches and lighters in places kids can't get to them, even if it is inconvenient for us; make sure you have quality smoke detectors properly placed in your home; talk to your kids about fire safety; ensure the mechanical, heating, and electrical devices in your home are in good working order. Kids tend to emulate their hero's. Be a hero to your kids and set great examples for them to follow.

Lastly, don't accept this latest fire death of a child as an accident, as tragic as it is for this family, it is repeated way too often. Become outraged and exhibit your outrage through positive action. Get involved in your community's Fire Prevention Programs, ask your friends, family and co workers if they have checked to see if their smoke detectors are working properly and do they store matches and lighters out of the reach of children. Take responsibility and be proactive. Do not be complacent! If each parent would adopt an attitude like this most communities may never have to suffer another loss like this again. I cannot imagine how deep the loss is for this family. I think I'll phone my kids now.


About: Kelly T Nicolello is the Assistant State Fire Marshal

Received February 08, 2008 - Published February 10, 2008



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Ketchikan, Alaska