Monday, January 10, 2000

Carbon monoxide killed 3 in blaze


House had no smoke detector

BY SARA J. BENNETT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONROE — Two brothers and a family friend who perished in a Saturday morning house fire died of carbon monoxide poisoning, Butler County Coroner Dr. Richard Burkhardt said Sunday.

        Terry Langdon, 52, died in the bedroom of his home at 174 Lindy Ave. His brother, Matt Langdon, 41, of Hamilton, and family friend June Reck, 43, of Middletown, were found in a bathtub filled with water.

        Their deaths could have been prevented, Monroe Fire Capt. John Centers said. No smoke detectors were found in the house.

"They're cheap'
        “I have a hard time walking into a home where they have a DVD player and a big screen TV, and they don't have the foresight to install an item that could save their lives,” Capt. Centers said. “This is not something for the rich and famous. (Smoke detectors are) accessible, and they're cheap.”

        Investigators have not determined the cause of the 5:55 a.m. fire, which started in the basement of the three-bedroom ranch house. Two firefighters were treated at hospitals for injuries. Two others narrowly escaped when a co-worker used a new thermal imaging camera to lead them out of a flame-engulfed room.

        The Langdon brothers and Ms. Reck were overcome by carbon monoxide gas, a byproduct in smoke that robs the blood's ability to carry oxygen to the brain.

Most homes equipped
        They might have escaped had they known earlier about the fire.

        “We've begged and pleaded with people to install smoke detectors,” Capt. Centers said. “Yet we continue to have fire deaths when something like this would almost guarantee that you could get out of the home.”

        Nationally, 93 percent of homes have smoke detectors, according to the Residential Fire Safety Institute.

        That doesn't mean all detectors work. About a third are broken, running on low batteries or too old, the institute reports.

        More than three-fifths of residential fire fatalities occur in homes that either have no smoke detectors or whose de tectors are inoperable, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's United States Fire Administration estimates.

        Like many local fire departments, Monroe tries to make it easy for residents to get smoke detectors and keep them working.

        During Fire Prevention Week in October, firefighters discuss the importance of detectors with schoolchildren, Capt. Centers said. People who can't afford detectors can get them free, and Monroe's department has even offered to help people install them.

        Anything to prevent a loss like Saturday's.

        “There's only one thing sadder than standing in a yard with a family that has experienced a major property loss, and that's standing in a yard where there is no family,” Capt. Centers said.

        “You can't even describe it as a tragedy anymore. As much as we talk about smoke detectors, people still don't have them.”

       



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