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There were 16 reported home fire deaths in Maine last year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. There were four home fire deaths in Maine just last week.
The causes of three different fires — one in Lincoln, one in Camden and one in Farmington — may require further investigation. But the devastating human toll of these events is already evident.
The Lincoln community is mourning the loss of 7-year-old Adele Parent, who loved singing and baking pies, after a fire last Monday night. The father of 14-year-old Theodore Hedstrom called his son “the most kind and gentle person I ever met” in the Penobscot Bay Pilot after the high school freshman died in a Thursday morning fire. A Farmington couple in their 70s, Tomasa and William Vincent, died after a fire ripped through their home on Saturday.
On Friday, Lt. Troy Gardner of the Maine Fire Marshal’s Office spoke about the early investigations into the Lincoln and Camden fires. He said there had been some electrical work done at the Lincoln home within three days of the fire that could “be a determining factor.” The presence of kerosene in a plastic container along with a kerosene heater — both located in the attic — likely helped the fire spread, Gardner said. In Camden, the investigation is exploring whether recent work on an electrical panel related to the installation of a new dryer could have contributed to that fire.
In a Saturday evening update, the Fire Marshal’s Office said investigators believe the Farmington fire was caused by combustible material being placed near a wood stove. Authorities believe all three fires were accidental.
In that Saturday update, the fire marshal’s update also stressed the importance of maintaining working fire detectors in homes. As investigations continue, there may be other definitive lessons from these terrible events. No matter what additional information comes to light, however, the tragedies of this past week should be a wakeup call across Maine about the importance of fire safety and preparedness.
“The number one thing people can do to be safe in their homes in a fire is to have working smoke detectors,” Robb Couture of the South Portland Fire Department told News Center Maine.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom and outside each sleeping area of each level of a home. They should be tested at least once a month and replaced every 10 years. The NFPA also stresses the importance of having a home fire escape plan.
Last week’s fire deaths in Maine have hit local communities hard. Mainers across the state should be reassessing their fire preparedness to make sure they’re doing what they can to protect their own homes and families (or in the case of landlords, their tenants).
“This was a particularly tragic event that occurred for how he lost his life, and it’s tough for the community,” MSAD 28 Superintendent Maria Libby said of Hedstrom’s death in Camden, as reported by WGME. “We’ve had a lot of loss in this community. A number of people have lost children in recent years, and it is heartbreaking every time it happens.”
A Facebook fundraiser set up to support Parent’s family, including those who escaped the fire in Lincoln, eclipsed $46,000. Support from family and friends “has helped us through this devastating time,” her grandmother said in a Facebook post.
“Any time there is a tragic loss of someone’s life it rattles the community to its core,” said Lincoln Town Council Chairman George Edwards. “I am very glad to see the outpouring of support from our amazing community to help this family during this tragic time.”
The community support and generosity has been uplifting. We hope that outpouring continues in each of these communities. We also hope there will be an outpouring of awareness and reemphasis on fire safety. We don’t say this to sound like nanny state nags or to point fingers. We say it with the hope that this awareness and preparedness can help save lives moving forward.