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20.12.04

Smoke Detector Reminder

William Turner, Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, 1835A little after 4 am this morning, my family and I were awakened by a multiple-alarm fire around the corner from us (William Branigin, D.C. Rowhouse Fire Kills Four, December 20, Washington Post). The strong winds of the major cold front that hit the District of Columbia last night fanned the flames, which started in a tenant's room in the basement and spread to deadly proportions because there were no functioning smoke detectors. When we first woke up, the smoke was swirling so badly, we couldn't tell if the fire was in our row of houses or even in our house. It was total chaos.

Because of the four fatalities discovered so far, including two children, the fire department has been distributing free smoke detectors to all the houses on the block today and offering to check homes for signs of fire hazards. (It's worth taking some time to think about fire safety in your own home.) The lesson to be learned from this terrible tragedy, dear readers: get smoke detectors and, if you have them already, go and replace the batteries tonight before you go to bed. That's what I'm going to do.

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