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On Friday January 23, 2009 Deputy Chief Lloyd Ogan of the Sacramento Fire Department greeted neighborhood leaders from Downtown and Midtown on the front porch of the building at 1319 H Street. The property had been damaged in a December 30, 2009 fire. The group had been invited by the Fire Department and District 3 Councilmember Steve Cohn to tour the building, ask questions and see what could be learned from the fire. The idea for the tour came from Battalion Chief Niko King. Chief King had experienced a similar tour while attending an advanced firefighting school in the East.
What did we experience? We saw how much damage a building sustains in an extremely short time. The fire started in an upstairs unit kitchen, but damage was extensive throughout the whole building. Chief King estimated that this happened in six to seven minutes! As reported in earlier stories, there was a rapid and extensive response by the Fire Department. Even with this response there were signs of damage on adjacent buildings. It was very sad to see the damage to what had been the well preserved original features of this beautiful property. Fortunately there was no injuries or loss of life of the occupants or firefighters.
What did we learn? A rapid and extensive response is necessary to prevent injury and loss of life. Occupants of a building should be cleared out immediately on detection of a fire. Fortunately this fire was in the afternoon. If this fire had occurred at night with most occupants asleep the outcome could have been much different. Maintain smoke detectors in good working order! This can be a problem with tenant occupied properties. An extensive response from the Fire Department is necessary to prevent the spread to adjacent buildings. This is especially true in the crowed neighborhoods of Downtown and Midtown. At one time the Fire Department would send one engine company to a fire call. They would assess the fire and call in more help as needed. Three vacant lots a few blocks from this property from a house fire several years ago is testimony to the problem with this approach.
We also learned that it is important to maintain electrical wiring in good order, especially in older, historic buildings. That the number one cause of home fires is unattended cooking. This is very preventable. Number two is intentionally set fires. This is very scary in that it is much more difficult to prevent. Lastly we learned that a loss of property is a loss of income to the community.
The Sacramento Fire Department hopes that tours like this will help instill the need for residents to be prepared and vigilant and that a rapid and extensive response to fires is needed to prevent injuries, loss of life and property.