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Coughing alerts sleeping couple in time to escape house fire

House had no working smoke alarms

by Tom Chillemi

A kitchen fire that started in the early morning hours of Saturday, December 7, while a couple was sleeping has left three people homeless.

The husband was able to knock down the fire before firemen arrived, said Billy Collier, chief of the Upper Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department. Firefighters removed cabinets and some drywall to be sure there were no hot spots. The fire started in the electrical outlet for the cooking stove, said Collier, adding the house was filled with smoke.

Two elderly occupants had escaped the home before the arrival of the first fire truck. Both occupants were treated by members of the Central Middlesex Volunteer Rescue Squad for smoke inhalation and each declined transportation to the hospital. The other person who lived in the house was not at home at the time of the fire.

Firefighters determined the home was not equipped with any smoke alarms, said Collier.

Mark Nugent, the Middlesex County Emergency Services Coordinator, spoke to one of the residents a few days after the fire. The husband told Nugent his wife was being treated at a local hospital. The fire victim further stated it was “by the grace of God” that he and his wife were able to escape the fire without serious injuries.

The husband said that his wife’s coughing due to smoke in the house awoke him in time for the couple to flee the structure.

Nugent said firefighters from the Upper Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department of Water View and the Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department of Urbanna responded to the fire at 6170 Tidewater Trail in Church View.
The husband credited firefighters from the Water View and Urbanna fire departments for saving the single-story house, which the couple was renting.

Smoke Alarms
All fire departments in Middlesex County will provide and install smoke alarms for those in need of one, said Nugent. Anyone who needs a smoke alarm or assistance in installing one, please contact Nugent at or 804-654-9659.

The River Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross disaster action team responded to the house fire with support and financial assistance for three adults with accommodations and groceries, said Julie Dudley, executive director of the River Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross.

posted 12.11.2013

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