'Nightmare' Amherst fire injures 1, displaces 20

April 30, 2018

A fire broke out at a multi-home at 285 Main Street on 2:55 a.m. last Sunday morning, causing one person to suffer injuries from burns and smoke inhalation. Twenty other residents were displaced.

When firefighters from Pelham, Northampton. Belchertown, and Hadley arrived at the six-unit building, there were visible flames emerging from from the third story, according to Amherst Fire Chief Tim Nelson.

Firefighters were able to reach one victim on the third floor and carried him to safety. Once they’d cleared all remaining rooms, they quickly put out the fire within 20 minutes.

amherst-main-street-fire(Source: MassLive)

Residents were alerted to the fire by smoke detectors so most were able to leave safely, Nelson said.

"It was one of those nightmare situations. You have multiple floors and multiple occupants and they are college kids and it is 3 in the morning. It is a worst case scenario," Nelson said.

College students pose some issues to firefighters as they are more likely to be out of the house at late hours or invite guests. Firefighters need to make sure they know exactly how many people are in the home to make sure no one is trapped or injured in the building.

Fortunately, they were able to do so without a hitch.

amherst-fire-truck(Source: MassLive)

The sole injured man was brought to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield and then transferred to the Connecticut Burn Center at Bridgeport Hospital. His condition was not immediately known, Nelson said.

The fire broke out on the third floor and primarily affected the right side of the building. The left side apartment was damaged by smoke, and much of the building was damaged by water.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation by Amherst fire examiners and the State Fire Marshal's office, Nelson said.

285mainst(Source: Google Maps)

All residents were students from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. College officials are working with the students to find temporary housing for the for the rest of the semester, Nelson said.

All 21 students displaced by the fire are being offered free on-campus housing and meal plan assistance by the University of Massachusetts.

Officials for the Dean of Students Office met with the victims Sunday afternoon and offered to provide housing, meal plan assistance and academic support for the rest of the semester, said Ed Blaguszewski, UMass spokesman.

Read more: 6 Home Safety Tips to Prevent Candle Fires

Do you know what to do in the event of a fire?
Detailed escape plans save lives. All fire plans have the same primary goal: escape quickly and safely. Be aware of all possible ways out of your home and know them well; in an emergency, there's not enough time to think. If it helps, draw a diagram or map to help your family understand what needs to happen.

Stay close to the ground.
Crawl or pull yourself along the floor if necessary to avoid dangerous fumes or if there's smoke blocking your escape route. In a fire, smoke and toxic gases are more deadly than the heat.

Your primary goal is to go straight outside through a door, but windows can also provide alternative emergency routes. Jumping out of a second-story window is dangerous, but could be necessary.

Practice unlocking the windows, opening them, and removing the screen so that you can do it in seconds.

For added safety, consider purchasing a collapsible rescue ladder to make escaping from upper-floor windows less risky. Don't wait until an emergency to test it out, though.

In addition to creating your escape plan, choose a rendezvous point.  You want to be sure that even if you take separate escape routes, you'll all end up in the same place.

While we value our pets, prized possessions, and important documents, you don't have time to grab things on the way out. You don't even have time to call 911 until you get out. Protect your life first, then contact the authorities. If you have a monitored fire alarm, trained emergency experts will dispatch the fire department to your house for you.

Read more: Monitored Fire Alarm Saves Home from Catastrophic Fire

Home fire drills keep families safe.
Don't just draw up plans; practice them frequently. The last thing you want to feel in an emergency is panicked and confused. Fire drills solve that problem. Time yourself with a stopwatch to see how quickly everyone can get out of the house and get to the meeting point. 

Your goal is to get everyone out within 3 minutes or less.

Practice this drill at least every six months. Also, check the batteries on your smoke alarms to make sure they're working properly.

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