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Detector saves home from bad fire

October 04, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - After 40 years without a problem at their home, the DeBows came within seconds of losing it to a fire, a Hagerstown fire official said.

However, the couple was awakened by a smoke detector and was able to douse a basement fire before it spread throughout the house.

On Aug. 23, Robert "Bud" and Greta "Bunny" DeBow woke up at 4:15 a.m. to the sound of a smoke detector and found smoke rising from the basement of their Salem Avenue home, where they have lived for 40 years. The DeBows said a fire had started in a trash can due to cigarette ashes put there by their son before he left for work.

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"If we didn't have the smoke alarm, this house would've been gone," Bud DeBow said. "After all those years, you collect all this stuff. We couldn't have gotten it all back."

Bunny DeBow said she extinguished the fire, which had not spread substantially from the trash can and a small portion of a nearby wall, with a bucket of water.

Mike Weller, the Hagerstown Fire Department's public educator, said the fire would have engulfed the vast majority of the home in about four minutes because of the wood paneling and glossy wood tiles on the ceiling.

However, he said such a move is generally discouraged by firefighters. Weller, who began promoting local efforts for National Fire Prevention Week on Sunday, said residents should immediately leave a building if the fire cannot be controlled in less than 30 seconds.

"We already had one person die this year because they tried to stay inside and fight a fire," Weller said.

He said several other fire-related injuries in the city have been reported for the same reason.

Bud DeBow lauded his wife for being diligent about changing the batteries inside their home's smoke detectors every six months for decades, despite the lack of incidents since moving there.

"It's something you might overlook, but you really can't," DeBow said.

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