OLD TOWN, Maine — The city’s fire chief credits a working smoke alarm with saving the life of an Old Town man who fell asleep Sunday while his dinner was cooking.
“It definitely made a difference in this case,” Fire Chief Steve O’Malley said Monday.
O’Malley said firefighters from Old Town, Orono and Milford were called to the home of Terrence Lawhorn and Amanda Weldon at Riverside Mobile Home Park shortly after 7:30 p.m., when food that was cooking on the stove caught fire.
Lawhorn had dozed off and Weldon was out at the time, O’Malley said.
After he was awakened by the smoke detector, Lawhorn tried to put the fire out by throwing water on it, but that didn’t work because it was a grease fire, the chief said.
Lawhorn then called 911 and escaped to safety.
O’Malley said the fire was contained to the kitchen and that most of the renters’ belongings were salvaged. He said Lawhorn and Weldon made their own housing arrangements. It was not immediately clear whether they had renters insurance.
The National Fire Protection Association says unattended cooking was by far the leading cause of cooking fires from 2005 through 2009. Three of every five reported nonfatal home cooking fire injuries occurred when the victims tried to fight the fire themselves.
The association recommends that cooks stay in the kitchen when frying, broiling or grilling food and check food regularly if they are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food.
It also recommends that if a small grease fire starts in a pan, they smother the flames by carefully sliding a lid over the pan and then turn off the burner. Do not move the pan and leave the lid on until the pan is completely cool.
In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed, the association says.
Sunday also happened to be the day that fire departments around the nation reminded homeowners and renters to replace the batteries in their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors while setting their clocks back an hour for the end of daylight saving time.
O’Malley said, however, that Riverside owner Kenneth Nelson had installed hardwired smoke alarms in the mobile homes in his park.
Those kinds of alarms are directly connected to a home’s electrical system, he said. Some have battery power as a backup should the electricity go out.