There are many lessons to be learned from the tragic Belmont fire last week that claimed the lives of 12 people just after Christmas. But if there is just one lesson to remember, it’s an important one — close the door.
Especially if you’re in an apartment building, which many of us are.
We tend to see doors as a way to maintain privacy. But in reality, they have a far more important purpose: They can keep a fire contained a little longer by blocking not only smoke and toxic fumes, but fire-feeding oxygen — and that “little longer” can be long enough to save many lives.
Fire Engineering, a trade publication designed to help our first responders battle blazes safely, pushed the closed door policy in an October story. Among the benefits of a closed door include slowing the fire growth and increased likelihood that the fire would have limited oxygen to burn, and thus no way to grow.
Preliminary reports from the Belmont fire suggest that when a mother discovered her young child had started a fire with stove burners, she fled the unit — but in her haste to escape, she left the door opened.
That gave the fire everything it needed to expand from one room to an entire building in a matter of minutes, giving many of the victims no chance for survival.
It’s hard to tell how any of us would react if we found a fire in our home, and remembering to close the door behind us as we flee might be the very last thing on our mind.
But closing the door is just as important as other tips we’ve learned since we were very young, like feeling a door for heat before opening it and “stop, drop and roll.”
This was the worst fire to hit the city in decades, and while it didn’t happen here, it sure was close to home.
Just because it didn’t happen here doesn’t mean it can’t. And if it ever does, all of us must be ready.
It could very well save a life.