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Family escapes house fire

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Friday, May 04, 2007

FORT SIMPSON - A home in Fort Simpson has severe smoke damage following a fire.

On April 24 at 12:35 a.m. the Fort Simpson volunteer fire department was called to Danny Peterson and Sandra Tanche's house in Wild Rose Acres.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

During the house fire in Fort Simpson the smoke alarm was delayed because it was covered in a plastic bag. - photo courtesy of Tyrone Larkin

The fire was contained to the computer room on the second floor of the two-storey house, said Pat Rowe, volunteer fire chief.

"We had it under control fairly quickly," Rowe said.

Three of the four residents of the house were present at the time of the fire including one adult and two youth. One of the youth was taken to the health centre and treated for smoke inhalation and later released, said Rowe.

A small electrical battery charger caused the fire when a model airplane battery overcharged and blew up, said Rowe. The overcharge probably caused a short in the recharging unit, which then started a fire on the table it was sitting on, he said.

A rapid call to the fire department was instrumental in saving the building, said Rowe. A quick call can change the outcome of a fire, he added.

The extent of the fire was also lessened by one of the residents who tried to put out the fire with a dry chemical extinguisher before the department arrived, Rowe said.

Members of the volunteer fire department entered the house and fought the fire. It was under control within three minutes, said Rowe.

This was the first major fire in the village this year apart from several chimney fires. A total of 10 members of the department responded.

The family is very fortunate, because the fire could have had a much different outcome, said Tyrone Larkin, the assistant fire marshal for the Deh Cho region.

While examining the scene of the fire later in the day to assist with the investigation, Larkin said he found a smoke alarm in the home dangling from the ceiling by wires and wrapped in a plastic bag.

"It's like cutting the seat belts out of your car. People can die because of that," said Larkin referring to the plastic bag.

During the fire, the smoke alarm was delayed because the plastic bag had to melt before the alarm could sound, said Larkin.

Larkin credits the safety of the family to the fact that Sandra Tanche was awake at the time because she couldn't sleep. After hearing a noise in the spare room used as a computer room, she was able to get the youth out quickly and call the fire department from a neighbour's house, Larkin said.

"This family was particularly lucky," said Larkin.

The office of the fire marshal is going to be putting renewed emphasis on the importance of smoke alarms in homes, said Larkin. Smoke alarms should be checked monthly to make sure they're functioning properly. Larkin also said that he was impressed by the volunteer fire department.

"The fire department response was sterling," he said.

Larkin said the response was quick and because the firefighters used a minimal amount of water, there is no water damage in the home.