Firefighters: tragic fire that killed 5 can help save lives one year later
"When you roll up and know there's not a lot you can do, when it's too late, it's just heartbreaking," said Battalion Chief Brian Stanaland with Oklahoma City Fire.He's talking about the tragic fire the day after Christmas exactly one year ago.
It killed Jeanine Bonnet and her four children between three and eight years old. It also left a lasting impression on the firefighters who tried to save them.
"A lot of firefighters have kids, grand kids, that we would think about in these types of situations so it can be traumatic," Stanaland said.
Neighbors also remember when the lot was filled by a home.
"They seemed like a pretty nice family," said Joshua Whitmire who lives two doors down.
Now there's no trace anything was ever there. The house was demolished and an empty plot of grass remains.
"I was thinking it was just kind of in disbelief and just kind of surprised that it really happened," Whitmire said, remembering December 26, 2012.
The fire started with a space heater in the early hours of the morning. No smoke alarms were in the house to wake up the people inside. It's a gut-wrenching reminder, firefighters say, that the loss of life could have been prevented.
"That makes the tragedy even worse," said Stanaland, "you've got to have a working smoke alarm in your home."
Firefighters recommend you hang a working smoke alarm outside every bedroom, if possible. And they say it's important to test the batteries monthly.
They also say stay away from space heaters if you can. If you have to use them, keep all flammable objects at least three feet away in all directions. Never keep them on while you sleep and buy the newer models that automatically turn off if they fall over.
Today at 2816 Dorchester, one sign of life remains: pecans.
"Still finding pecans, there's a lot of pecans," said neighbor Darren Beatty.
He and others collect them at the lot, while they reflect on what happened there.
"The people made a memorial they brought a bunch of teddy bears out here," he recalled.
He said it was the kind of day that makes you hug your loved ones tight. And firefighters hope the sad reminder convinces people to take steps to make sure they can get out if a fire happens to them.
"That was a bad deal really," Beatty said, "I mean that was terrible what happened that day."