Time to take fire safety more seriously in the city

By The Courier-Gazette Editorial Board | Dec 27, 2018

Fire Chief Christopher Whytock is right to raise the alarm about the recent situation at the Rockland Post Office.

On Thursday, Dec. 20, he arrived at the post office to find the air thick with enough smoke to make his throat burn. Instead of fleeing the building, customers were still waiting in line and staff were still working at their posts. It sounds from the report like the staff did not even initially call the fire department, but fortunately, someone called Whytock on his day off.

When the city's fire chief directed the clerks to evacuate the building, they refused! The postmaster then came out and initially refused to leave, but after a few minutes agreed to evacuate, Whytock reported.

The chief said this was the first time he has dealt with a situation in which occupants of a building have refused to evacuate when first directed to do so. Let's make it the last.

We recognize that the need to get those last-minute Christmas cards mailed off can seem very important, but if you smell smoke, evacuate the building. It's a matter of prioritizing your health. Smoke is not good for people, even if no flames are apparent.

Health and safety come first. And even in this era of questioning authority, sometimes it must be recognized. The city's fire chief has the authority to order any building evacuated. His mission is to protect the people of Rockland, and we must cooperate with his efforts and those of all of the firefighters serving our city. It is a professional, educated, full-time department, and its memb ers deserve our respect, cooperation and appreciation.

While we are on the subject, it is past time for Fisher Engineering to take real steps to address the problems it has been having with fire safety.

On Dec. 18, area firefighters were dispatched to the snowplow facility for the fifth fire call in a little over a year. That is unacceptable.

We know that Fisher is one of the city's largest employers and taxpayers, and we appreciate its commitment to the Midcoast. However, it is time to fix the problem.

Again, at issue here is the safety and health of the employees at the plant. While the fires that have taken place seem, at least from the sidelines, to be relatively minor, we are concerned that if this trend continues, someone could get hurt.

Winter is often a season of fires, when people are running furnaces and woodstoves, so this may be a good time for the rest of us to check the batteries in those smoke detectors as well.

Stay safe.

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