Sunday, January 17, 2010

the morning after the fire on Pearl Street, Springfield, Vermont.

The scene of the fire from the hill -

On visiting this morning the site of the demolition of the Pearl Street house that went up so completely and tragically last night, there was heard a buzz of conversation as citizens exchanged information and stories about the house fire and the people most directly affected by it, and more than one citizen asked aloud if recent fires were not in fact caused to some degree by the complacency of a slum lord mentality, in the same way that the theater fire may have been caused by slum lord complacency in not installing a fire detection and water sprinkler system in an ancient building carved most improbably into dozens of rooms - could it be that the practice of "grandfathering" or of taking advantage of an "old boy network" has the unintended result that buildings broken down into multiple dwelling units are allowed to persist as fire traps? Don't landlords oblige their tenants to keep a given property in good shape and safe to some verifiable degree? Is it really an invasion of privacy to have the Fire Department conduct safety checks now and then to try to help affected citizens understand the fire potential they are living with, especially in buildings that have the crowded configuration observed in recent building fires? Would the oft observed approach be preferable ever, to rent out a warren of rabbit hutches rather than upgrade the properties and have them inspected ever?

The house that burned last night, starting at dusk perhaps around 5 or 6 and of course lasting all night long, is described as having been a bit crowded, that parts of the house were more than a bit crowded (the term "hoarder" was bandied about very casually but not derisively, and not with any intent to be flip). It was heard commented that there were at least 3 or 4 apartments, and that one man remained trapped inside and died when the floors collapsed on him. As an example of the effect of panic, it is said that one man was seen to run frantically back and forth between houses with a glass of water at one early stage in the fire.

Could it be, that one or more residents chose to fight this fire themselves, too proud to let strangers in?

This morning the town of Springfield Vermont is as gently as possible tearing down the house on Pearl Street with a steam shovel to let the professionals get in safely, to retrieve the remains of the neighbor who perished in the fire.