Fire Death In Yorktown: Clutter Prevented Rescue

A few hours ago, a fast-moving fire took the life of an elderly woman in Yorktown Heights.  It was noted several time throughout the newscast that firefighters did all they could to rescue the lone resident of the home.

While the cause is still being investigated, firefighters told News 12 that the amount of debris in the house made searching for, and the attempted rescue of the victim very difficult.

In January 2008, under eerily similar circumstances, an elderly couple in Yonkers also lost their lives when their home caught fire and firefighters could not navigate the home to search for them, due to piles and piles of debris-many 5 feet tall or more.

While we are probably all guilty of letting clutter accumulate from time to time, this much stuff is not clutter, it’s a deadly hazard.

In the event that any emergency worker is needed in your home, precious moments are lost when clear access to, and through rooms is not available. 

 Children’s toys, too much furniture, piles of paper or magazines, even ‘neatly’ stacked boxes-anywhere in the home-can contribute to a tragedy.

Senior citizens, often with diminished mobility and limited social contacts seem to be the most as-risk.

  They may not have the strength or funds to remove things, they may be embarrassed to ask for help, or they may just not recognize the danger.   To that end:

-Clean out: sell, donate, recycle what you don’t want/need, and get off-site storage for what you must keep, but don’t need or use regularly.

-Make sure you have the correct number of smoke, fire and CO2 detectors in place. It is simple, cheap and smart; it is also the  law. Test the batteries monthly, vaccumn dust out regularly, and change batteries at least once a year.

Reach out to your neighbors, especially the senior citizens.  Check in, know who-and where the rest of their family is, and how to reach them. 

The town of East Rochester NY will always have my deepest gratitude: their keeping a collective eye on Grandma Stella let her stay in the town she always lived in, and gave us-7 hours away-real peace of mind.

 If they need help with chores, offer- or research it within your community. Most high schools have community service as a requirement for graduation now, and here in Westchester, the Volunteer Center can point you in the right direction.

-While you don’t want to interfere, or violate any one’s privacy, if you do notice any dangerous conditions,  let family, and/or officials know.   And spread the word!  As the poet Robert Louis Stevenson once simply noted, “Take care of each other”