Public Safety officials discuss how city can notify neighbors of a house fire

By Martha Stoffel

O’FALLON – During Monday evening’s Public Safety Committee meeting, Ward 1 Alderman Ross Rosenberg asked Public Safety officials about notification of residents of neighboring structures when there is a fire. 

A recent residential fire in Rosenberg’s ward on Callaway Court on required multiple units from neighboring districts. Rosenberg indicated an adjacent property is an in-home daycare and was curious about whether or not a business like that would receive notification.

Police Chief Eric Van Hook and Fire Chief Brent Saunders spoke to the fluidity of a structure fire and how notification for neighbors may not be available in the moment from fire personnel. Van Hook said he would look into potentially using the city’s Code Red notification system through dispatch or City Hall in a situation like this. A list of daycares are in the city’s emergency operations plan, assuming they are registered with the state and with the city. 

“Typically in those types of situations we refer to ‘shelter in place’ is usually the best option; close your windows, close your doors and don’t come out. Especially with young children, because once they exit the building now they’re in the environment that could cause health problems. That would typically be our first move, unless the fire would move in any direction that we would need evacuation,” Saunders said. 

The residential fire at 129 Callaway Court on July 31 ended up being a four-alarm, almost five-alarm, fire because of limited manpower to the fire departments during the day. In addition to the manpower limitations, the type of construction of the home, using open floor joists, allowed the fire to spread the length of the home quickly and cause the floor to begin to collapse. The fire had to be addressed from outside the structure, causing it to be much more labor intensive. A couple of fire personnel were transported for heat injuries, but other than that no one was injured.