22 Aug 2014
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Muffled Nightlight Sets Mattress on Fire

This time, the breakfast-time call was not a false alarm.

Muffled Nightlight Sets Mattress on Fire
Editor's Note: Chris Kear was quoted incorrectly in the original version of this article. He said the family didn't call 911 to confirm the fire. "We never want anyone to cancel and cancel the alarm if there is an actual incident," he said. Patch regrets the error. 

A Pomona family narrowly avoided a house fire Feb. 22 when the mattress in their 7-year-old son's room caught fire. 

The Hillcrest Fire Company responded to an automatic alarm at 8:26 a.m., said Chris Kear, Rockland County deputy fire coordinator. 

Often at that time of day an automatic alarm goes off because someone burns something they're cooking for breakfast and the smoke detector picks it up, Kear said. "But this time it wasn't a false alarm!"

When volunteer firefighters responded to the house on Tara Drive, they found the homeowner had already dragged the mattress outside. He had not called 911 to confirm there was a fire because it was Shabbat, Kear said.

Apparently the fire was caused by a nightlight plugged into an outlet next to a bed placed against the wall. The nightlight had been covered with a pillow so it wouldn't be so bright. The pillow began to smolder, and the fire spread to the bedding and then to the mattress.

The child saw smoke and alerted his parents. His father pulled the mattress away from the wall to take it outside. As he was dragging it downstairs, it broke into open flame. However, he was not burned and he was able to get the burning mattress into the yard, Kear said. 

"It could have been tragic," he said. "It had been on fire for a couple of hours...one of the problems with mattresses is they smolder. Then when they get oxygen, they can flare up very easily."

The boy and his dad were both fortunate, Kear said. Burning mattresses can break up into several flaming pieces. 

Twenty-five firefighters and three trucks responded, led by Assistant Chief Chris Bowers as well as the Ramapo Police Department and the Spring Hill Community Ambulance Corps. The 7-year-old was checked for smoke inhalation and was fine, Kear said.

The alarm activated and notified the residents, which is great, he said. "This was a case when an automatic alarm did its job."

There are so many unnecessary alarms in Rockland County that the Fire Chiefs Association and Office of Fire and Emergency Services have embarked on a campaign to stop them before they go off. In this series, Patch takes a look at the issue. Here are the two previous posts: 

Unnecessary Calls Plague Rockland Firefighters

Common False Alarms: What You Should Know

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