Editorial: Angels in a hot spot

Last Wednesday and Sunday saw Saugus firefighters turn tragedy into survival and, ultimately, hope for a man and a dog firefighters rescued from separate kitchen fires. The dog was rescued from Sunday’s Essex Street fire. A combination of high technology and old-fashioned rescue work were keys to Wednesday’s rescue.

Veteran Fire Lt. William Cross compared Wednesday’s Falmouth Street fire in a brick residence to a hot oven and said he heard a man cough inside the building after a thermal imaging camera indicated no one was inside.

Cross dragged the man from the burning kitchen into a hallway where other rescuers hauled him outside to receive medical attention. “I think we had an angel looking over us,” Cross said.

Two kitchen fires in the span of five days is bad news any time of the year in any community. Cross, who is also the Saugus firefighter union president, spotlighted the two rescues as examples of how diligence on the part of town residents can work in partnership with fire professionals to prevent tragedies.

Cooking, smoking and electrical problems all pose potential fire dangers, he warned. But diligence and precautionary measures, including properly-maintained smoke alarms and appliances, can reduce fire danger.

Like most communities, Saugus is fortunate to have a professional and responsive fire department capable and equipped to save lives. Cross, by his own admission, has led a charge during his firefighting career to get a third town fire station built on Saugus’ west side and positioned for easy access to Route 1.

That is a section of town with, to date, 1,075 apartments approved for construction or on the drawing boards. Modern apartment construction includes the latest fire safety precautions, but having a fire station close by can’t hurt.

It’s easy to look at modern building construction, fire safety precautions, and overall good sense and conclude fires are, thankfully, a rarer event than they were even 30 years ago. But that conclusion starts unraveling against the backdrop of 27 fire deaths to date this year statewide and costs associated with fires like the July 10 Juniper Drive blaze that caused $750,000 in damage.

Fire awareness and prevention is a responsibility everyone should shoulder, beginning with providing fire safety instruction to children. The next step is to rationally decide how much additional financial support the Fire Department needs to do its job. Detailed discussions with fire officials need to cover topics including personnel, equipment and training.

Fires — as the past week proved in Saugus — are always a threat.

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