Weekend fire shows importance of working smoke alarms

Medford, Ore. — An apartment fire over the weekend is serving as a good reminder to have working smoke alarms inside your home.

According to Medford Fire-Rescue, working smoke alarms and quick application of fire extinguishers are what prevented a fire at North Riverside Apartments from growing beyond one bedroom.

“We heard a boom and the smoke alarm upstairs started going off,” apartment manager William Nelms said.

When apartment manager William Nelms heard the smoke alarm going off in the apartment above him Saturday morning, he was quick to take action.

“I had to crawl on my hands and knees all the way down around the mattress to the base of the flames. I did the first fire extinguisher, and then I exited the premises and did that five more times,” Nelms said.

Nelms used six fire extinguishers to put the fire out, just before Medford Fire-Rescue arrived to help.

“They went in and finished throwing everything that was still burning out the windows,” Nelms said.

He says cigarette butts next to an oxygen tank are what sparked the flames.

But if it hadn’t been for the smoke alarm, Nelms wouldn’t have been able to act so quickly, and the apartment could have been lost.

“It really is the most beneficial early notification system you can have in your home,” Fire District 3’s Ashley Blakely said.

Ashley Blakely with Fire District 3 says a fire can engulf a home within minutes making the alert system crucial for saving lives.

“By law you’re supposed to have one in each bedroom, in the hallway outside of the bedroom (within 21 feet of the door), and on each level of the home,” Blakely said.

Over the weekend, Medford Fire-Rescue arrived at the apartment within minutes, but it’s the sound of the alarm that prevented a scary situation from rapidly turning into something much worse.

“Aside from some singed hair and smoke inhalation… I’m doing okay,” Nelms said.

Two people – including the apartment manager – were sent to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.

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