A rural Douglas County family lost its home to fire last week, but, thanks to a little advance planning, all 11 members of that family are alive to tell the tale.
At about 1 a.m. last Friday, Roger Guillory was awakened by his 9-year-old daughter who alerted him to smoke that was filling the family’s home. While his wife, Camay, fled the house with the couple’s 19-month-old son, Roger and his daughter headed upstairs to help five other children escape. One by one, the children climbed out a second-story window and were dropped 10 feet to Camay, who was waiting to catch them on the patio below.
By the time firefighters arrived, it was too late to save the family’s home, but all nine family members who were home at the time, were out of the house and safe. Two other children were staying with their grandparents that night.
Roger Guillory, who works in safety at the ICL Performance Products plant, is convinced that practicing fire drills with his family made the difference in them being able to escape quickly and safely. He said he had taught the children how to react to various dangerous situations. Their practice fire drills had even included rehearsing the same second-story route that helped them escape from the fire last Friday.
“You don’t have time to think,” Guillory said. “It was just a natural reaction for something that we practice.”
Having a plan in place allowed both parents and children to react but not panic. They knew what to do; they had practiced it before.
As a local Red Cross official pointed out, their practice sessions may have made the difference in the Guillory family being able to escape safely, while five family members, including three children, perished in a Stamford, Conn., house fire just a week earlier.
Fire departments are well aware of the life-saving potential of planning and practicing how to escape from a burning home, and they make repeated efforts to share that knowledge with school children and through public service announcements. We’ve all heard them, but how many of us have actually made a plan let alone practiced it with family members?
The story of two parents and seven children escaping from their burning home in the middle of the night because they were able to react quickly and follow the escape plan they had put in place and practiced is a strong endorsement for adding fire safety planning to your family’s New Year’s resolution list.