Deerfield fire linked to smoking spurs safety warning from fire officials

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After a recent fire linked to smoking materials caused $100,000 in damage, Deerfield fire officials are reminding people that many resources are available to protect life and property from such occurrences.

The Aug. 16 fire has been linked to the use of smoking materials in the master bedroom of a duplex on Jonquil Terrace. The owner of the second floor dwelling told police she had been up three times during the night, smoking a cigarette each time, fell asleep after 7:30 a.m. and then awoke to find her bedroom floor on fire. She was unable to extinguish the fire and went to a neighbor's home, who called 911.

The victim, whose home had a working smoke alarm, was treated at the Highland Park Hospital emergency room and released. The fully involved blaze drew mutual aid response from Lincolnshire, Lake Forest, Highland Park, Buffalo Grove and Northbrook.

"When we arrived, visibility on the second floor was zero," said Lt. Ray Larson of the Deerfield-Bannockburn Fire Protection District. "Firefighters made a fast attack, coordinating ventilation with a hose line attack. We searched for additional occupants and a cat was removed from the home unharmed."

"The working smoke alarm was truly the positive outcome of this story as it saved the lady's life," he added. "This is a reminder that working and properly maintained smoke alarms should be in all sleeping areas of your home, located on every floor, including the basement."

"Ultimately, the number one cause of fire deaths (nationally) is fires related to smoking materials," said Larson. "About 3,000 people die in home fires every year."

"I can't think of a single fire we've had (recently) where there wasn't a working smoke alarm," said Larson.

Deerfield and Highland Park fire officials are bullish on fire prevention and seeing that every dwelling within their jurisdictions has working smoke alarms. The two towns will send someone out to install a standard smoke alarm and battery, will run checks on existing alarms and make calls to change batteries if residents ask. Fire officials urge residents to replace batteries in their smoke alarms in the spring and fall, when Central Daylight Time changes go into effect.

Highland Park, which has about 30 structure fires a year, has seen a reduction in smoking-related fires.

"We've seen fewer and it's due to increased smoke alarms and sprinkler systems," said Highland Park Deputy Chief Dan Pease.

"Thirty fires doesn't mean we lost a building," Pease added. "It often means we kept it contained to the area of origin, whether it was a kitchen or a bedroom."

Illinois codes require that sprinkler systems be part of any new commercial construction, including multi-unit rentals. The Office of the State Fire Marshal proposed the new regulation on June 28, requiring the installation of fire sprinkler systems in new one-and-two family homes.

Debate has continued on how much the highly effective systems add to the cost of new construction, but the fire marshal's website published an April 2013 fact sheet pegging the cost at $1.61 per square foot of a new home. Thus sprinkler installation in a 2,000 square foot home would add $3,220 to the market price.

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