Jul 28, 2014
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Smoke Detectors, Calm Under Stress Saves Six People from Portsmouth Fire

Three adults and three children are counting their blessings — and glad they had working smoke detectors — after a fire early Tuesday night.

Smoke Detectors, Calm Under Stress Saves Six People from Portsmouth Fire
Three adults and three children are safe after a fire at their Hathaway Drive house early Tuesday morning thanks to working smoke detectors, officials from the Portsmouth Fire Department said.

The Fire Department received a 911 call at 1:09 a.m. and two engines, a ladder and car 2 were dispatched.

Crews found a fire venting from a front window and crews, led by Capt. Darryl Sieben, stretched an attack line to a side door, forced their way in and quickly put out the flames.

Damage from the fire itself was limited to an exterior wall on the front of the house and the kitchen but the entire house suffered smoke damage, said Deputy Fire Chief Michael P. O'Brien.

The occupants of the house were sleeping at the time of the fire and it was the working smoke detectors that woke them up. They escaped by retreating to the basement and exiting a rear basement door. 

Once outside, the family called 911 and a neighbor provided shelter while crews fought the fire.

O'Brien said the family spent the night at a hotel and damage repairs could run upwards of $30,000.

The cause of the fire was accidental and remains under investigation.

Newport provided mutual aid for Portsmouth during the fire.

A family cat that escaped has not been located and the family is asking people to be on the lookout for a gray cat.

O'Brien said the fire had an "outstanding outcome" and that's the result of things "happening the way they should."

First, the residents had working smoke detectors. Every resident should have working smoke detectors, especially now, with the daylight savings time switch recently passed. Firefighters from around the country remind residents to pop in new batteries whenever the clocks change.

Secondly, the occupants didn't try to fight the fire. They used their limited time to escape the fire. And they called 911 from outside.

The house, being close to the Fire Department, helped matters. Response time was within three minutes.

And credit is due to the firefighters who made an aggressive attack, O'Brien said, and forced their way to to stop the fire's progression, saving the home.

"The fire had the potential to cause harm to these people and destroy the home.  The proper maintaining of smoke detectors, proper decision making under stressful circumstances, the quick response time, and the proper execution of their duties by firefighters combined to minimize the magnitude of damage this fire caused."

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