Comments for: State: Deadly Orrington fire caused by cardboard too close to wood stove

Posted Nov. 12, 2012, at 2:01 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 12, 2012, at 6:04 p.m.

ORRINGTON | Empty cardboard boxes stored too close to a wood stove started the fire Saturday in Orrington that killed a father and his three young children, the state fire marshal’s office said Monday. As state officials released the findings of their investigation, students, parents and community members were …

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  • This is so sad. The family is in my thoughts and I hope that Christine has a phenomenal support system as she’ll need one in this horrible time. I cannot fathom the pain…all we can do now is pray for her. I hope that as a community, we can reach out and offer support in every way possible to make things a little easier. 

  • Anonymous

    Terrible, I can think of so many times growing up we’ve left our kindling or boxes very close to the woodstove we used to heat our old farm house. My thoughts and condolences are with them mother.

    • Anonymous

      I am just picturing the home I am in the process of moving out of. There must be a dozen boxes stacked beside the stove. The stove is no longer in use, since I broke both of my hands after falling with my arms loaded with wood. 

      I have moved because of the high cost of heat. I can imagine there are many more households moving to wood or wood supplements this winter and we may see more tragedies like this one. I pray not, but I realize that the potential is there.

      It is reported that the furnace in this house was not working and I think that is a scenario that will be repeated in many homes throughout the upcoming winter.  All the more reason to make sure you have smoke detectors. Some fire departments have them available for a reduced cost, have working batteries and have a CO detector. Remember CO is heavier than O2 and therefore CO detectors should be placed lower on the wall for the earliest detection of CO.

      • Anonymous

        Technical point . . . Carbon monoxide when heated or warm will rise . . . but as soon as it reaches room temp it pretty much can be found at all levels of the home which makes a CO detector at any level a good thing . . . providing they are working.

        One tip not mentioned is to replace the entire smoke detector every 10 years (a lot of folks do not realize they have a life expectancy) . . . CO detectors may need to be replaced every 3-7 years (depending on the make and model).

        For tips on safe wood burning please contact the Bangor Fire Department, your area fire department or local woodstove shop.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks for the info on Carbon monoxide. We had a water heater vent pipe rust completely a few years ago Thanksgiving and our detector located at light switch level promptly alerted us, which was great because my daughter was not feeling well. We immediately vacated the house, but I killed all of the oil fired appliances and opened all the windows before we left. My daughter was fine, fortunately, because of the early alert.

          I have another question. Can the local fire departments provide tips on getting a fire started? I am a consummate city kid. My idea of camping is staying away from home at the Hyatt Regency or Ritz Carlton. Roughing it would be a Holiday Inn. 

          I will not be playing with a wood stove henceforth, but I am sure there are other city transplants that could benefit from some help if they wanted it.

        • Henderson bobby

          I think you will find most standard hard wired smoke detectors are only listed for 5 years . Maybe they will last longer than that in a non smoker non woodstove house . Just saying the listing on them is not to good.  That being said I would encourage people to add a few stand alone battery smokes if you already have hard wired ones. The issue i find is if one has a week battery or not working properly it tends to make them all chirp or at least make the problem hard to pin point . Many times people will take them all down because one is troublesome.  People always seem to think it cost $1000s. to install hard wired interconnected smoke detectors but you average electrician should be able to add them for less than $500 for a whole house . Replace them for less than $200 . Small price to pay to be a bit safer.

        • Anonymous

          One more suggestion is to place CO detectors either in bedrooms or one within 10 feet of bedroom doors.

        • Anonymous

           Thanks for all of the good advice.  Perhaps you can answer a question about fire extinguishers.  (And if not, I will certainly stop in my town’s fire department.) Mine are several years old, yet still the gauge is in the “ready” area.  Can that be true after several years?  Makes me a little nervous….

          poor family, so sad…

          • Anonymous

            Most fire extinguishers will have the date on a tag or stamped somewhere on the cylinder.  I would say if they are over 5 years old, you may want to consider having it checked out by someone to see if it needs recharging.  Also, I am sure your local fire department would be happy to help you find out–bring the extinguisher to your department and someone would most likely be able to tell you for certain.

          • Anonymous

             Thank you!

    • Anonymous

      often  fire dept will train people  on   the proper use of a wood stove and should be called in  to do an inspection to ensure the hook up and chimney  is safe.

      Also in tight time more and more people are facing electric shut offs (and have used up all their resources)  AND  may use unsafe alternatives or use them unwisely.  Be careful out there.

      • Scott Harriman

        I have always wondered why fire departments are considered the authority for heating appliances.  My furnace actually has an old sticker saying that the local fire department “approved” it.

        Firefighters are trained to put out fires, not install and use stoves and furnaces.

        • Anonymous

          Who better to tell you what causes fires?  Join a local volunteer company and you will answer your own question after a short time.

          • Anonymous

            Actually, some are good, some maybe not so good. I caused an oil leak in my basement when I primed the heater after running out of oil. This is a simple procedure and I had done so many, many, times. However, this time, the screw was not as tight as it should have been, and over several hours, 50-70 gallons escaped. The entire fire department responded (or at least it looked like it) but no one checked the screw on the heater. That was the first place the service man looked. However, knowing several members of the department on a personal level, I know where I would go if I wanted advice on smoke detectors or other fire safety equipment. Some of us read computer magazines and some read up on every new fire protection/prevention that comes out.

  • Anonymous

    I posted on a previous article on this tragedy that in memory of Ben Johnson and his children, I have replaced smoke detector and CO Detector batteries in my new home and my daughter and grandchilds home.

    I am asking all readers here to do the same. If you can, do so for one other family (household) as well. If these deaths can prevent one other tragedy, then at least something good will have come from this tragedy.

    • Rocky4

        Excellent!! I change my batteries every year during Thanksgiving week. Last year
      I bought two new Co detectors. One near the boiler & another at the main floor bedroom
      door.  Smoke detectors on all three floors and the cellar stairwell.

      • Anonymous

        And if anyone can afford to purchase a smoke detector or CO detector for yourself and/or another household, please do so. But at least change the batteries in your own smoke detectors and/or CO detectors, and hopefully offer batteries to one other household, maybe one with children, so hopefully we can prevent another family from suffering this tragedy.

    • Anonymous

      As I did raysgirl but I also said I test and change all my batteries twice a year in my smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (even detectors and batteries can be defective) for it is the only way I can sleep peacefully knowing I may get enough warning for my family and pets. One never knows if an accident is only a few seconds away. No matter the cause of this tragedy the outcome is heartbreaking as we have all made mistakes in life that could have changed life as we know it today. Again best wishing to Mrs. Johnson for her physical and emotional recovery and also to her extended family and friends.

      • Anonymous

        Thank-you.

        I usually do this when we turn the clocks back, but for some reason didn’t do it this year, maybe because I was in the middle of moving and busy with a new grandchild etc. No excuse.
        I didn’t know this family and I live no where near Orrington so I was trying to think of some small thing I could do in memory of this young family. Realizing, I hadn’t done it, I went out and got batteries for my new home, for my daughter and for the father of my infant granddaughter. He also has a son that lives with him, so it seemed that trying to protect us all and then having done it, urging others to do the same in memory of this young family would be a small step in preventing another tragedy of this sort.

    • Anonymous

      that’s a great comment.  let me please add that two house fires in Maine this year were attributed to dryer vents & exhausts not being cleaned.  Please remember to not only clean the front lint trap in your dryer, but to annually clean the exhaust hose as well.  Hot air blowing on lint will start a fire.  It takes about an hour, you need some tools, here’s a youtube video to guide you.  

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNbhZlbSN4I&feature=related 

      take care all, and God Bless the Johnsons and all who love them.

      • Anonymous

         My daughter just had a dryer fire at her house. They didn’t clean the workings of their gas dyer. Everybody is okay, but it could have gotten real bad quickly.

    • jerrymyx

      fire escape plans…. should be part of every Maine household  and taught in school … fire drills practiced regularly, at home, and  School, with  teachers,  parents and  firefighters!! on how to escape a burning building of any sort.

      • Anonymous

        It is done every year in the schools with fire departments!

    • Anonymous

      I always replace mine at Daylight savings time.  I hadn’t yet.  Did so Saturday morning.

      • Anonymous

        I have done the same every year too. This year, I planned on moving in November but because of a heating issue, I moved in October as the apartment was vacant anyway. I guess between moving and caring for my granddaughter while my daughter works, I never did it.

        Like many people, I thought about my own family when I heard about this. I thought there was one way I could honor those lost-by being sure I offered more protection to my own family. So Sunday, I went out and bought batteries for my three smoke detectors, my daughter’s two smoke detectors and for three at my grandbaby’s Dad’s house as he has a little boy living with him. All three homes now have battery backed plug in CO monitors too.

  • Anonymous

    What really makes this sad is the fact that they were probably using wood because oil is too darn expensive. There is no reason for oil to be so high. christine you and your family are in my prayers

    • Anonymous

      Please don’t bring that into this, it has nothing to do with it!

    • Scott Harriman

      Perhaps oil is so expensive because it is a finite resource that is being used up very quickly.

      • Anonymous

        That may be true, but home heating oil are in the same price range as gasoline, but is far cheaper to produce and isn’t taxed.  What does that tell you?  Sounds like someone is inflating the prices at the expense of the homeowner.

        • Scott Harriman

          Economies of scale might have something to do with that.

          Mainers use almost 700 million gallons of gasoline a year but less than 200 million gallons of heating oil.

          • Anonymous

            Maybe, but then again, Mainers can go without gas if they can’t afford it, but when it comes to heating oil, the companies are bending us over a stump! If you don’t believe that call your friendly neighborhood oil company and try to order $100 worth of oil. They will tell you 100 gal. minimum. There is no good reason for oil to be so expensive. Especially in a State that pays crap for wages. Mainers are forced to desperate measures to stay warm.

  • Anonymous

    my thoughts are with the family….

  • Anonymous

    Not mentioned in the article is the importance of being sure the chimney is clean and suitable for use. A blocked up chimney has improper draft and will back smoke up into the home creating a danger as well as a mess. Please have your chimneys checked if you haven’t already done so.

  • Frankie

    This woman just lost her entire family.  I cannot even begin to imagine the pain she is going through right now.  My thoughts to her and the extended family during this time.  Makes me feel fortunate that I have never had to deal with any kind of tragedy like this, and I hope I never do.  :( 

  • Anonymous

    Wood stoves can be a great source of warmth in the winter and wood seems fairly plentiful. However, if people are not well aware of how to use them safely, they can be deadly. What a tragic event, and a loss for their family, friends, and community.

  • Anonymous

    Drove by this sad scene on my way home this afternoon. Devastating doesn’t begin to cover the situation. I hope the surviving wife/mother can somehow carry on with her life after this.

  • Take a note from the poster below and use this tragedy as a wake up call. Smoke Detector batteries should be changed twice a year, when the clocks change is a convenient reminder, and CO detectors are also important. We all also must be reminded of how easy it to become complacent with the simple things, such as smoke detector batteries and safe heating practices. While we cannot prevent all tragedies, we individuals are most responsible for our own safety and that of our families, don’t let this responsibility slip, more Americans die from fire annually than we lost each year in the Middle East, yet we don’t spend a fraction of the cost on our own home safety.

    • Anonymous

      I am sure you are right about the smoke detector. It sounds to me though that the cardboard burned so fast and so hot that there might not have been enough time for escape anyhow.  Because the mother escaped to the roof, I would guess their escape route was blocked by the fire.  A tragic situation for all involved!  I was a volunteer and went to a similar fire 30 years ago where 3 kids were killed.  I still remember that night.  My heart goes out to the Mom as well as all the fireman that were there for them!

  • Anonymous

     Its time to license owning a wood stove.  A person buying a wood stove has to attend, say a 3 hour safety class.   

    Laugh, call it ridiculous,name call me, but are you ready? to read non stop wood stove fires and Mainers dying in them with kids,  ,one wood stove fire after another,after,another,after another., throughout the whole winter. 

    • Matthew Desmond

      If you have to have a license to own a wood stove, you obviously lack common sense.  Let’s not use this tragedy as a way to add more bureacracy to an all ready bloated state government.  Wood stoves are so 1900s anyway…everyone is switching over to pellet stoves which not only provide better heat, but added safety.

      • Anonymous

        There are dozens of reasons not to license wood stove ownership, but not one,  will do anything to reduce the number of wood stove fires and related deaths in Maine

        • Anonymous

          Nor will requiring a license.  People have been using some form of a fireplace since we “discovered” fire.  Sorry, if you aren’t able to figure out fire in 2012, some piece of paper issued by the government isn’t going to save you.

          You cannot police and protect everyone and everything we do.  There is absolutely no reason at all to require any license or permit to own a wood stove–none.  Remember that thing called personal responsibility?  Let’s allow some of that back into our lives instead of over regulating ourselves. 

    • Anonymous

      Do you want me to take  a course and get a license to own a candle?
      Educate, yes. License? Get real.

    • Scott Harriman

      A license is not necessary, but I would support a safety class that would educate people in addition to giving them a discount on their home insurance premium, similar to automobile or motorcycle safety courses.

    • Anonymous

      Enough!  No more nanny government oversight.  People make mistakes, some make poor decisions.  That is life.  There is no need whatsoever for a license, permit, class, or anything.  Its common sense that you try to keep flammable substances away from a hot hunk of metal.  This is in no disrespect to the family or what was lost, but seriously…sometimes just let things be, we don’t need oversight in every little aspect of our lives.  Its a tragedy, leave it at that.

  • Come on bangor daily there must be some other news out there to report on…..

  • Also I do recall they were renting the house with option to buy. That would mean by law the owner is on the hook it is their responsibility to ensure proper working smoke detectors are in place.

  • Anonymous

    i cant imagine going through something like this, my thoughts and prayers go out to the families

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