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Grateful for MFC, let’s stay safe

The Millerton News Editorial

It’s mid-December, a joyous time for most who are thick in the grip of their holiday celebrations — shopping, baking, wrapping, visiting — doing all of those things that make us most jolly.

While we never like to place a damper on the seasonal festivities, we would like to, just for a moment, redirect our readers’ focus to glance back on what happened in our community roughly a month ago, on Nov. 6.

Early that Saturday morning, the Millerton Fire Company (MFC) rushed into a home on South Elm Avenue (Route 22), with as many as eight fire departments backing it up in addition to those on stand-by, saving lives, as the Yang family saw its house ignite into flames.

Nearly 50 of our volunteer firefighters from around the region risked their lives — as they have at countless calls — while their axes chopped through scorching walls, while their bodies were assaulted with splintering glass, while their lungs were flooded with toxic smoke and while their helmets were pelted with shards and shingles from the falling roof.

Yet those are the kinds of dangerous conditions our firemen and women contend with time and again when in the line of duty.

In the case of the South Elm house fire that fateful November morning, sadly, two of our Millerton neighbors didn’t make it out alive. The MFC and other departments not only had to deal with the physical toll of that tragedy, but with the emotional anguish.

We can’t stress how deeply we appreciate all that our firefighters and other emergency workers do, whether here in the village of Millerton and town of North East or elsewhere throughout the Harlem Valley.

When the Millerton Fire Company responded to Golden Wok owner Amy Yang’s home on Nov. 6, we can say with absolute confidence they saved lives.

Along with the rest of the community, we continue to mourn the loss of Mrs. Yang’s daughter, 24-year-old Jenny Yang, and another resident at the home, 30-year-old Wangdi Tamang.

We know there were other heroes that day who helped save people trapped in the Yang home. To all who ran into the burning building to rescue some of those stuck in what was at that point an extremely unsafe structure fully engulfed in flames — you are indeed amazing.

So, too, are all in the community who have taken the initiative to help the immediate survivors of the fire and other nearby residents who were also displaced by the blaze.

A number of locals have started GoFundMe pages to help fundraise for neighbors left homeless by the tragedy.

Others have started community food drives, household good drives and even furniture collections to get the families back on their feet.

For details on those initiatives and ways to contribute, please read this week’s front page story by Millerton News reporter Kaitlin Lyle.

Tips to stay safe

Which brings us to the fact that we are on the cusp of winter, set to officially begin on Tuesday, Dec. 21. That means more people in the Northeast will be revving up their heating appliances and other incendiary devices. We thought this would therefore be a good time to reinforce some safety tips.

For starters, make sure your smoke detectors work, have fresh batteries and are placed in the proper locations. One local fire chief recommended that if you’re buying a smoke detector to pick up a combo-kit with a CO2 unit; he added that there are now smoke detectors with batteries that last seven years. Once the batteries expire, the units can be thrown away.

If you are installing wood stoves and/or fireplaces, have them installed to code and get them certified by a certified installer. Your local municipal building inspector should give his or her blessing.

Clean all of your chimneys annually; they should be swept down to the firebox.

Those with boilers should have them maintained, cleaned and certified annually by someone who is licensed to do so.

For the holidays, be careful with Christmas trees and other holiday decorations. Many people don’t properly hydrate their trees. A dry Christmas tree can go ablaze “like paper going up,” said one fire chief, who “strongly recommends unplugging lights on the tree at night.” Christmas lights can also short circuit, he warned.

These are some basic, common-sense tips to stay safe this winter and holiday season. As always, keep papers away from heaters no matter the heat source.

Bottom line, do your part to stay safe so the firefighters we value so highly can also stay safe and snug — inside their firehouses — and not have to show up at your house to fight a fire that could easily have been prevented.

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