Firefighters: closed bedroom door likely saved twin girls' lives in Everett fire

A closed door helped save the lives of twin sisters trapped in a raging apartment fire Monday in Everett (Photo: KOMO News)

EVERETT, Wash. - A closed door helped save the lives of twin sisters trapped in a raging apartment fire in Everett on Monday, according to firefighters.

The Everett Fire Department said the two 3-year-old girls’ survival is a lesson for us all.

Firefighters said flames covered every inch of the exterior of the girls' first floor apartment and then jumped to the second and third floor apartments.

Two neighbors said they broke windows and yelled inside, but no one answered.

They feared the worst.

Everett Deputy Chief Fire Marshal LeRoy McNulty took our KOMO camera inside the charred apartment.

The living and dining rooms are charred and blackened, nothing can be salvaged.

A dining room chair is one of the few items still recognizable.

Our camera followed the charred debris and blackened hallway to what McNulty said helped save the twins: their bedroom door.

The outside of the door is black, blistered and warped from the fire.

Like his boss, Assistant Fire Marshal Steve Goforth said he has no doubt, the door made the difference.

"I absolutely do think that was a factor for those girls," said Goforth.

While the girls napped inside, their closed bedroom door acted like a fire barrier.

The fire hit the closed door, kept flames out and gave fire fighters critical time to knock it down and rescue the sisters.

Goforth said interior doors typically resist flames for up to 20 minutes.

"It is a partition just like a sheetrock and everything it does stop fire for a certain amount of time, just closing the door cuts off the oxygen supply, somewhat of the fire and it lowers the temperature," said Goforth. "You can have 18 percent oxygen in the room that you have the door closed and only 8 percent outside."

He insisted when there is no way out, a closed door can save a life.

The difference inside the bedroom and outside is dramatic.

Outside everything was devoured by fire, but inside all the bedding, the sheets, pillows, blanket, headboard and dresser look undamaged - even books and plastic DVD cases on a bookshelf by the burned door were untouched by fire and intact.

"You could still see recognizable clothing and the bedroom and sheets were almost pre-fire condition. They were damaged but not quite as much," said Goforth.

The UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute, which helps set safety standards, launched a "Close before you Doze" campaign nationwide. It's an effort to encourage everyone to close their door when they go to bed.

UL provides educational videos on its website, one demonstration at their test facility shows how fast an open door bedroom goes dark and is overtaken by fire - compared to a closed door bedroom

UL said a closed door can really make a difference in temperature too, citing temperatures can reach 1,000 degrees on the fire side of the door, while the inside can read 100 degrees or less.

"She was pretty listless," said John Schill, Everett Fire Medic Services Officer.

He treated one of the twins, he helped get her a breathing tube and treated her for exposure to toxic gases.

He raced her in his Medic Unit all the way to Harborview Medical Center.

"That is always the hardest patient. One because, we don't see children as often and two because every life is important, but somehow kids are more important and so it tugs at us that much and we're working that hard," said Schill. "I am so happy she is out of the hospital already that's awesome."

The girls were released from the hospital on Tuesday.

One closed door, great firefighting and two lives saved.

Everett Fire said keeping safe requires more than a closed door, they stressed having working smoke detectors, a fire extinguisher and a practiced escape plan.

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