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Battling fire with knowledge and smoke detectors

Brooklyn tragedy spurs HAFTR safety program with the Lawrence-Cedarhurst F.D.


Hanukkah became a nightmare for the Azan family on Dec. 17. As the family was asleep flames from the menorah spread through their Brooklyn home. The fire killed four of the seven people in the house, Aliza Azan, 39, and three of her children, Moshe, 11, Yitzah, 7 and Henrietta, 3.

Ariella Gasner, a member of the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway board, said this tragedy truly “shook up” the school community, and inspired the board and PTA to host an event to spread awareness of fire safety.

“Every year there are terrible stories,” she said. “In general, these events are usually geared towards kids but adults must be educated as well. If people are willing to hear small proactive safety tips to protect their families then we believe it’s worthwhile to set up a forum to hear from the fire department.”

Led by Meyer Adler, an by ex-captain of the Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Department, the program in the HAFTR gymnasium in Lawrence on Feb. 8, highlighted several of the potential fire hazards that accompany some Jewish rituals and the best ways to maintain safety.

Having smoke alarms on every floor of a house, making sure the batteries still work (many such alarm batteries are good for 10 years), not wrapping tinfoil around hot plates, closing bedroom doors at night to keep smoke out and either extinguishing all candles before bed or staying up until they burn out, are some of the tips Adler shared. “I did clear this whole speech with my rabbi, so don’t worry,” he said, with a chuckle.

Adler also repeatedly stressed the importance of calling 911, or even better he said, call the fire department directly. The LCFD number is (516) 569-4411. “Even if there is a suspicion of a fire,” he said. “Twenty-four hours, seven days a week, even on Shabbat you need to call … Ever since people started living in cities and manipulates houses are too close together [to follow ancient rules about not putting out fires on Shabbat].”

Two residents who had close calls and received help from the LCFD spoke. Both Barry Septimus, a Lawrence resident, and Rob Millstone, from Cedarhurst, had their smoke alarms hardwired to alert the department. Both fires ignited as they and their families were asleep. The Septimus blaze began in the kitchen.

Millstone woke up in his friend’s home in a cloud of smoke and because they received the alarm, the fire department was already outside when he stuck his head out the window, “If no one was there,” he said, “I wouldn’t have a wife, kids and my friend wouldn’t have kids.”

Joshua Gold, principal of HAFTR Middle School, thanked Millstone and Septimus for sharing their stories, and Adler for his informative speech. The hope is that informative events like these save lives. “It really strengthens my resolve to know that our relationship with the Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Department is so important,” Gold said.

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