Fire — both humankind’s most beloved discovery and hottest foe. For it, we have struck flint; by it, we have bent metals and roasted chicken; and with it, we have maintained the light and warmth required to survive.
Sparks could really fly for those University of Maine residents living in Edith Patch Hall and Doris Twitchell Allen Village if darker smoke billows by way of an oven mishap or a countertop range calamity.
Apparently, the mantra “better safe than sorry” isn’t one touted by the Orono Fire Department when an alarm activation is patched through from Patch or DTAV. Emphasis on conserving resources trumps the slim possibility of a UMaine inferno smoking a handful of upper-hill campus dwellers.
The current fire policy dictates that when a UMaine dormitory alarm goes off, the Orono Fire Department is to send the engine, one of the town’s two ambulances and the ladder truck to the scene.
But a department memo sent out in December 2010 rejects the latter two options in the case of Patch and DTAV, requiring instead that only the engine be dispatched initially.
Of course, a large percentage of the alarms sounding from the Patch and DTAV complexes are made on behalf of nonthreatening, minor infractions — burnt popcorn, overcooked cookies — but all it takes is one roiling, scorching exception before the memo plan dissipates to ash.
If the policy demands a full crew must respond to an alarm incident on campus, then the entire team available should counter the call, period — even if the signal originates from a kitchenette of DTAV or Patch.
It isn’t the fire department’s job to decide whether one incident is more dangerous than another — whenever an alarm goes off, it should be treated as though legitimate danger is imminent and requires all resources at hand.
Following a memo written for the sake of convenience instead of heeding the original call of duty — no matter the location — is a vicious gamble.
One true instance of combustion could claim numerous young lives, and if the OFD arrives half-cocked when a full crew could have been there at the onset, the aftermath is sure to be heavy with the soot of guilt.
Fire can be tricky — it can imply more than is actually there, it can be beautiful, and it can yield many edible delights. But when it is uncontrolled, fire can leave things in complete ruination.
So don’t play with fire, OFD, because one of these days you, along with the people you have sworn to protect, will get burned.