Russel Ashe Lieutenant Barre City, VT Fire Dept.


This letter was originally sent to Richard Patton in June of 2006.

Mr. Patton

My name is Russell Ashe, a Lieutenant with the City of Barre Fire Department. We are a career department located in Central Vermont.

I have just come accross an article of yours on line and it has got my complete attention. In it you talk about how the industry has lied to the public and the fire service with respect to how well an ionization smoke detector works. In particular, during a smoldering fire. I would like to learn more. Please allow me a minute to explain to you why...

On December 17, 2005, my department was called for an apartment fire. When we got there, there was fire blowing out of several windows. We had reports early on that the apartment was occupied. I was on the first crew inside the apartment. A crew of four. We entered the apartment three times, each time without any hoseline protection, and each time from a different entry point.

The first time, we made it in 30 feet or so and had to retreat. In doing so, our exit was blocked by fire and we had to go thru the fire to exit. On the third attempt, we entered into a bedroom window via a ladder and found an adult male. He was still alive. We rescued him (he is alive and well today) and then continued on our search.

I entered the next bedroom and found 8 year old Christa Foster. I brought her to a window and passed her to an awaiting ff. I then got on the ladder and was handed 6 year old Mikayla Foster. I carried her down the ladder and to an ambulance. I then took 11 year old Tory Stoltz and laid her down on a sidewalk and did mouth to mouth / cpr on her for 15 minutes while we waited for another ambulance. 10 year old Brett Stoltz was found next by other ff's and brought to an ambulance. Their mom, Kimberly Stoltz-Foster was found deceased next to the seat of the fire, badly burned.

In all, five died, four children and their mom. Their dad, Art, is the only survivor. Except for a friend that was staying there that night. He may have fallen asleep with a lit cigarette. I stress may as it is still under investigation.

The CO levels in the children was 62% and 50% in the mom. I dont know about dad. The smoke stains on the walls indicate a smokey fire (smoldering). We believe the fire was smoldering for some time before it broke out. The fella with the cigarette got out on his own.

The fella that got out reports hearing a smoke detector. Police officers were on scene very quickly and report hearing no active smoke detectors.

No fire fighter heard a smoke detector.

I believe that the fire did smolder for awhile. When the fella that got out awoke, he found a lot of smoke, little to no fire and exited the apartment, leaving the door open, allowing fresh air to enter the apartment and kick starting the fire.

Sir, I see those kids every day. I want to know why they couldnt get out. There were smoke detectors in the apartment. At least three. One in the girls bedroom, one in dads and one in the kitchen / livingroom area. They were ionization detectors. At least two of the three were hardwired.

As I am learning more, I came accross your article and want to learn more.

Is it just ionization detectors, or are detectors as a rule ineffective at detecting a smoldering fire? If so, what if anything can be done to protect ourselves from a smoldering fire? What informatin can you provide me to maybe help sort this out. It doesnt make sense to me for so many to die in a fire where there were plenty of smoke detectors. (working ones as I said, at least two were hardwired).

Is it just ionization detectors, or are detectors as a rule ineffective at detecting a smoldering fire? If so, what if anything can be done to protect ourselves from a smoldering fire? What informatin can you provide me to maybe help sort this out. It doesnt make sense to me for so many to die in a fire where there were plenty of smoke detectors. (working ones as I said, at least two were hardwired).

I am forwarding this email to my fire chief as well. This fire is personal to him as it is his family that was in this fire.

I have also printed this article and am sharring it with him as well. In it you refer to some positive litigation that you have been in representing victims. As I believe there will be some litigation, I am in hopes that the family may contact you for assistance.

Thank you sir in advance for your time.

Russell Ashe, Lieutenant 
Barre City Fire and Ambuance 
www.barrecityfire.org