HARTFORD COURANT: Interim Chief Wants Residents To Be Prepared In Case Of Fire

By | May 16, 2018
Members of the Canton Volunteer Fire and EMS Department responded to what ultimately was a minor appliance fire, on Timber Lane in Canton on April 9.

But had things been different, the department’s interim Chief Wayne Goeben said the story’s conclusion could have been much worse.

Goeben, who became interim chief on April 1, wants to use this incident to appeal to Canton residents, and beyond, about how they can be as prepared for a fire as this particular household was.

“It’s a super example of what an asset a prepared citizen is to us,” Goeben said. “That’s what it comes down to. The fact that there’s no pictures of the fire is good news. We aren’t talking about a burned out home because they did all of those things right.”

What went right during what started as a dryer fire, Goeben said, was that the residents were home while running their appliance, had working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and had easy access to a fire extinguisher and knew how to use it. The primary fire, in the house’s basement, was extinguished by the residents.

“Many of us take for granted that if we leave our home, our appliances are fine running,” Goeben said. “But things break. The fact that they were home when they were running is the first good thing.”

Being a volunteer fire department, members responding to an emergency aren’t often coming directly from their station. They may be at home, at work, or elsewhere in town. The first thing Goeben wants people to do is dial 911 and not the routine number.

“The only message to reinforce is that you need to call 911,” Goeben said. “We have had this happen more than you might think in Canton. People will call the firehouse on the routine number. Maybe they are embarrassed or think they have don’t have a problem. Our firefighters are volunteers, so there may not be anybody at the fire station to answer. That’s why you need to call 911. We’re happy to come out.”

Goeben said just about any appliance could break and result in a fire. The first thoughts go to the dryer and oven. But fires can also start because of the dishwasher, microwave, or toaster.

And the reason an appliance shouldn’t be used while a resident isn’t home is simple, he said.

“If the fire starts when you aren’t in the home, now it can go up into the wall,” Goeben said. “Since the dryer is vented to the outside, it has a path into the wall. Now it gets into the wall and it races throughout the home. It’s going to take a period of minutes, even if you have a monitored fire alarm, before that alarm activates. And then there is time, the monitoring station receives the alarm, they call our dispatch center, our dispatch center calls our fire department.”

Goeben points to the non-story of the April 9 incident as something to think about.

“This isn’t the one you will see with 14 towns fighting the fire because somebody did the right thing,” Goeben said. “I want to hold these people up as an example to all of us. This is what we should aspire to be. Prepared and trained to take care of our own homes as best as we can be. I love stories like this where there is no story.”