Unified Fire officials tout a simple practice to save lives: close bedroom doors at nightMar 31, 2023 01:48PM ● By Carl Fauver
This entire home was destroyed by fire, except for the room behind a bedroom door, closed at the time of the blaze. (29firerescue.com)
Ask any Taylorsville City Council member how often they see something “shocking” or “amazing” while conducting their twice-monthly meetings at the west end of city hall, and chances are they will say “rarely” or “almost never.” After all, they are conducting city business which, for the most part, is pretty routine.
But Unified Fire Authority Captain Richard Rich bucked that trend during his most recent quarterly report to the city council with a 3-minute video.
“Wasn’t that the coolest thing? It was amazing,” Councilwoman Anna Barbieri said. “I have sent that video link to so many people.”
“That video made me move to action,” Councilman Curt Cochran added. “The next day, I ordered a nylon rope fire escape ladder because our bedroom is on the second floor.”
And Mayor Kristie Overson concluded: “Fire Station 118 offered a live demonstration last fall which Councilman Burgess and I attended. It is incredible.”
The elected officials – and others attending the city council meeting – were all buzzing about a fire safety video showing the incredible effectiveness of a closed bedroom door during a house blaze. In the demonstration a fire was started at one end of a hallway. A bedroom door midway down the hall was closed tight – while a bedroom door at the far end of the hall was left open.
In just a few, time-lapsed minutes, the video clearly shows the fire creeping past the closed bedroom door, on down the hall to the open-door bedroom. The rooms at both ends of the hallway were completely destroyed. But the middle bedroom behind the closed door remained in nearly pristine condition 15 to 30 minutes later.
“Most people have no idea how much fire protection a closed bedroom door can provide,” Rich said. “Because many of our furnishings are now made of synthetics (as opposed to natural fibers, like cotton) fire spreads much more quickly than years ago. We used to estimate house fire safe escape times at 17 minutes. Now it’s 3. Closed bedroom doors can give people so much more time. But studies show only 29% of people sleep with their bedroom door closed.”
Overson is not surprised by that last statistic.
“As a mother, closing a door where young kids are sleeping is such a hard concept,” she added. “It just goes against what I have always thought. When I had young children in the house, I wanted to be able to hear them at night. But there is no question, closing the doors can make a huge difference during a fire.”
Rich recognizes this reluctance and says he hears it every time he shows the video to groups. He admits the decision was a tough one, even in his own home. Eventually, he did decide to close bedroom doors at night and make use of baby monitors.
Called the Close Before You Doze program, the fire safety videos are available through Underwriters Laboratories Fire Safety Research Institute. You can find them at fsri.org.
Once the “oohing” and “wowing” over the fire safety video had subsided, Rich also told city council members the UFA’s current, 16-week firefighter training course began with 33 recruits in February and will continue until June.
“This is a very rigorous course; but by the time recruits are placed in it, they have been thoroughly screened and we don’t get a lot of dropouts,” Rich added. “Finding good employees is an ongoing battle. We only run one training course each year. But we are constantly recruiting.”
UFA training and safety standards are a very personal concern for Cochran.
“Both my sons are firefighter/paramedics with UFA after transferring in from other agencies over the past several months,” Cochran said. “I think every parent is concerned when a child enters a field a little more on the dangerous side. But I am confident in the training my boys have received. UFA is doing a good job for Taylorsville. They have my support 110%.”
Unified Fire operates two stations in Taylorsville. The smaller of those – Station 118, just west of city hall – is one of their older, smaller stations. Meantime, spacious Station 117 on Redwood Road (4965 South) opened in 2017. It is so large, two separate fire companies operate out of it simultaneously.
Systemwide, Rich reports UFA employs 480 sworn personnel along with 53 fulltime civilians. Additionally, the agency has 80 parttime EMS employees along with 50 parttime wildland firefighters.