Condo blaze demonstrates public’s continued over-confidence toward fire

Residents’ slow response to a massive fire at a 24-unit condo in Boxborough, MA, last week reflects a continued over-confidence that perpetuates the public’s risk. Boston’s CBS affiliate (WBZ-TV) reported that getting residents to exit the condo, where a fire reportedly broke out in the building’s attic, was more of an issue than pulling water from nearby ponds (the town does not have a municipal water system) which presumably would have been the bigger challenge.

“Actually, the challenging part was evacuating people… because people didn’t want to leave,” said Boxborough Fire Chief Paul Fillebrown. According to WBZ-TV, firefighters banged on doors several times to get people outside of the building.

Whether the residents may initially not have seen signs of danger because of the fire’s origin or the winter temperatures dissuaded them from leaving their homes, a lack of urgency around prompt escape underscores a continued complacency toward fire among many people. Findings from past NFPA surveys show that home is the place feel safest from fire when, in reality, it’s the place they’re at greatest risk; more than three-quarters (77%) of all U.S. fire deaths occur in homes.

While there is no one simple answer or solution to changing persistent attitudes and/or misperceptions toward fire, it’s clear that much more needs to be done when it comes to better educating people about how fast today’s fires spread and the critical importance of responding quickly.

NFPA’s Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem reinforces this point, with an informed public serving as a key component of a full system of safety. Residents must understand their true risk to fire and take personal responsibility for protecting themselves from it. That means being properly educated about where fire risks are greatest, what’s needed to prevent them, and how to most effectively respond in the event of one. Learn more about NFPA’s Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem and use NFPA’s public education resources to better educate people in your community about critical elements of fire safety.

Photo credit: Boxborough Fire Department's Facebook page

Sign up for the NFPA Network Newsletter
Susan McKelvey
Communications Manager

Related Articles