Friday, October 08, 1999

Fire Brought Reality Home for Couple

Fire Brought Reality Home for Couple
The Ann Arbor News
By Pamela Appea

Cynthia and James D’Amour of Ann Arbor know that fire is not something that always happens to other people. The D’Amours still vividly recall the night several weeks ago when they awoke to the shouts of “fire!” and the sound of someone pounding on their door.

By the time the D’Amours, groggy with sleep, realized their apartment building was on fire, their exit out the front door was blocked.

They grabbed their wedding photos, an airplane ticket for Cynthia D’Amour’s business trip the next day and some computer disks for their home-based business and fled to their balcony to await rescue.

The D’Amour’s, both 37, survived their ordeal without serious injury, but the experience made them realize how important it is to be prepared for the possibility of fire.

Fire officials would underscore that, during this week, which has been declared Fire Prevention Week. Many area fire departments will have open houses this weekend.

“We (want to) share some valuable lessons that we have painfully learned,” Cynthia D’Amour said.

“Never in our wildest dreams did I think we would be burned out by a fire started in the apartment below us.” (Ann Arbor Fire Departments said the blaze started on the floor below the D’Amours by smokers who accidentally set a mattress on fire.)

Although they had insurance, it wasn’t enough, the D’Amours said.

“If we replace everything that we lost, (it) could easily add up to $30,000. Instead we are having to make some strategic decisions about replacements,” Cynthia D’Amour said.

The couple now realize that their previous fire insurance policy was inadequate. They thought they were a low fire risk and that $20,000 in coverage would be enough for their two-bedroom unit in the Village Park apartments on the east side of Ann Arbor. They regret that they did not buy an additional $10,000 in fire insurance that would have only cost an extra $25 per year.

D’Amour added that she lost many things, including family heirlooms and professional achievement plaques that are irreplaceable. It’s also hard, she said, to prove to insurance adjusters that a burned out piece of furniture or other heirloom was originally worth something.

Fire Department Open House

The Ann Arbor Fire Department will have open houses at all six of its fire stations Sunday as part of Fire Prevention Week.

The open houses will run from 1-4 p.m., with different activities at each fire station. For more information, call (734) 994-4908.

Some other fire departments will have open houses Sunday:

-Brighton: the station at 615 W. Grand River Ave. will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Events include rescue equipment display, tours, a “smoke house” presentation by the Brighton SWAT team, survival flight helicopter landing.

-Howell: 1-4 p.m. Sunday at 1211 W. Grand River Ave. Events include Smoke House demonstrations, survival flight helicopter landings, fire hose practice for children, “Stew” the Arson dog, refreshments.

-Green Oak Township: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday at 9384 Whitmore Lake Road. Events include car fire demonstration, an extrication demonstration, two survival helicopter landings, a fire prevention program for children at 3:30 p.m.

Originally published Friday, October 8, 1999