I doubt many people will wake up early on Hallowe’en Sunday morning at the age of 23 to go in to McDonald’s to open the store for 6am. I doubt even more so that you will be visited by your aunt at around 9:15am, who looks like her chin is still stained with fake vampire blood, whilst wondering why she is there as her closest McDonald’s is on the other side of the river Forth. Nor will you demand she tells you what is wrong, because you suspect something is, and then run through a list of your immediate family members loudly, and in front of horrified staff and a full queue of customers, getting increasingly frantic. Nor when you mention your brother’s name will she look stricken as you demand she tells you what is wrong. I hope you never have to hear the words, especially in front of an audience, that he died in a house fire, pulled out not breathing at 7am that morning. I hope you never have to hear those words.
Loss is something everyone faces in their lifetime; it is an inevitable part of living, although that doesn’t make it any easier. Happiness is a quiet death at an old age surrounded by family, sadness is a long illness which eventually wins, sadness is also a short illness, unexpected. Tragedy is an accident where circumstance steals away a loved one. Waste is something entirely different. Waste is carelessness. Carelessness is what killed my brother. He died in a house fire; a house fire of his own making. He went in after a party and decided to fry some chips; fell asleep and never woke up. That is waste.
How many times do we read of house fires, fatal and non-fatal, but dangerous nonetheless, of carelessness, of chip pans, or pans left on or dropped cigarettes? How many times do we hear that these houses had no fire alarms to wake up the inhabitants of the house or their neighbours? How often is alcohol a factor?
My brother had a fire alarm, it did go off and someone attempted to help him. Unfortunately they were too late to resuscitate him, but at least there is a chance if you have a smoke alarm. And isn’t it morally reprehensible to put your neighbours lives in danger too by not having a fire alarm to possibly alert them and their families of a fire? Sometimes forward planning and a little bit of sense can prevent your family having to pick up the pieces of your waste and carelessness.
I’ve never written about my brother dying, why would I? It is personal to me and my family, but yesterday I saw the Scottish Government launch its “Don’t Give Fire a Home” initiative and wanted to stick my oar in, and praise any efforts to raise awareness that fire can happen to anyone, tragedy can affect any family. It did then, in 2004, and it did again last year.
My aunt, who was my godmother, died in a house fire last year. They say lightning doesn’t strike twice; well it did in our family.
If this serves as a little reminder every time your oversensitive fire alarm goes off when you burn some toast and you are tempted to remove the battery, then it is worth me talking about. If it stops you getting in after an evening and out and switching on a cooker, then it is worth sharing a personal story.
Just remember: Fire Kills, Carelessness Kills. It happened to our family twice, it can happen to anyone. Be careful and take precautions.