Neighbors gathered in The Villages for a Monday presentation by Maricopa Fire/Medical Department after a house fire. Photo by Mason Callejas

The average response time for a Maricopa fire truck is 4-6 minutes.

Maricopa Fire/Medical Department held a fire safety presentation Monday at a home in the Villages that was partially burned by a fire last week. Against the backdrop of the charred home, the department emphasized the importance of planning and early-alert systems, such as having evacuation plans, functioning smoke alarms and not being afraid to call as early as possible.

Speaking at the event, Battalion Chief Ken Pantoja stressed the importance of alerting the fire department as soon as possible. Given that fires can double in size every minute, the earlier the call comes in, the better, he said.

A rise in plastics and synthetic materials in everyday items such as carpets, furniture and appliances has accelerated the speed at which fire moves, he said.

“When I first started, we had about 20 minutes to fight a fire,” Pantoja said. “Now, we have 6-8 minutes.”

MFMD Public Information Officer Brad Pitassi additionally emphasized the importance of calling 911 earlier.

They, like most modern fire departments, have real-time information given to them, he said. When a caller alerts 911 dispatchers to the location of a trapped family member or details about the fire, they immediately send that information to the responding firefighters, giving them an edge when combating the blaze.

For the most part, Assistant Chief John Storm said, the fire was contained to one portion of the house due to the rapid communication between dispatchers and responders. Within 35 seconds the first truck was en route, and five minutes and 36 second later they were on scene.

Firefighters were able to use the real-time information relayed to them by dispatch to quickly react when they arrived.

The Professor was the only injury in the fire, needing oxygen from MFMD afterward.

Three out of every five fatalities that occur due to fire, Pitassi said, happen in buildings without smoke detectors.

“If you check your batteries, if you make sure your detectors are working and efficient and in the right position, you’re going to cut your chances of dying in a house fire by 50 percent,” Pitassi said. “Go home and check your alarms, please.”

MFMD officials also emphasized the importance of having a safe meeting place for your family to go during a fire, preferably on the opposite side of the street, away from the fire and out of the way of first responders.

They also suggested keeping trees and hedges trimmed so they are less likely to act as a catalyst for a fire, limiting its ability to spread from house to house.

The fire in the Villages only injured one victim, a dog named Professor who was successfully treated for minor injuries and smoke inhalation. Pantoja said MFMD received a grant a while ago that also allows them to treat animals with oxygen and other minor injuries.

MFMD Fire Marshal Eddie Rodriguez said the exact cause of the blaze has yet to be determined.


Joycelyn Cabrera contributed to this article.

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