HERMON, Maine — If not for the smoke detectors in her Swan Road home, Jennifer Stalter says that she and her toddler might not have survived a fire that began in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
Stalter, 37, said that before heading off to bed about 10:30 p.m. the previous night, she put a load of laundry into her dryer.
A few minutes after 2 a.m., she awoke to the shrill sounds of her smoke alarms going off. Stalter said she then grabbed her 22-month-old daughter, Sarah, and their pet cat and dog and got out of the house and called 911.
“When there’s a fire, every second counts. The firefighters who were here told me that if we had been in the house five or 10 more minutes, we wouldn’t have gotten out alive,” Stalter said late Thursday afternoon during a news conference at her home.
The event was organized by Hermon Fire Chief Larry Willis to highlight the importance of working smoke detectors.
“Nobody plans to have a fire,” Willis said. “You have to be prepared,” he said.
Willis said that a Hermon fire engine crew and a Levant tanker truck crew were first to arrive at Stalter’s home. The two crews entered the house and quickly knocked down the fire, containing damage to the dryer, the clothing inside and a few nearby items.
Firefighters then used ventilation fans to clear the house of smoke, Willis said.
Because the doors to the home’s three bedrooms were closed, Willis said, the only after effect of the dryer fire in those rooms was a faint smell of smoke.
“There was no structural damage since the firefighters got to it just in time, as shown by the black soot all the way across the ceiling,” he said.
As Sarah flirted and blew kisses at a television news camera operator, her tired but elated mother expressed relief that the family and house were safe.
“When I was out there waiting for the fire department, I was bawling,” she said, adding that the house contains things that money can’t replace, including family photographs.
Firefighters from Carmel and Glenburn also were dispatched to Swan Road, but because the fire was put out so quickly, they were redirected to provide backup for Hermon, Willis said.
No one was injured, he said.