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EDITORIAL: The Fires of Winter

After a summer of fires consuming vast areas of wilderness and destroying entire communities we are now in the season of fires in close packed urban streets. 

In recent days we have witnessed the row house fire in Philadelphia which resulted in twelve deaths. And now there is the apartment fire building in the Bronx with seventeen lives lost and dozens of injured people as these words are being written.

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Destructive and deadly fires are always investigated. Those who carry out the investigations discover how a fire started, and then deduce why it turned into something so deadly.

There is a process, a protocol. But experienced investigators know what to check, where to look. In a non-arson blaze the source of the fire, and the reason it was calamitous, can be quickly, if not immediately, identified.

The Philadelphia fire was a tragedy in significant part because four smoke alarms in the house lacked working batteries.

The fire alarm system in the Bronx apartment building, according to reports, would frequently go off without cause. Residents, over time, would assume another false alarm when the system activated.

Last weekend, tragically, the alarm was very real; the culprit, again according to reports, a faulty space heater.

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What followed was a disaster, one that would have been even worse had not some of the world's best firefighters, members of the FDNY, not been quickly on the scene.

The reasons for mass casualty events as a result of building fires so often seem mundane and preventable. They are.

But they continue to happen, often in old or substandard buildings. We can never be too vigilant, never too strict in enforcing fire codes and building standards, updating and improving them.

We grieve for the lost, and mourn with their families.