An Upper Arlington family is still displaced by a fire that swept through their house last summer, but they remain grateful the event wasn't more tragic.

They credit smoke alarms for saving the lives of six people and three pets.

"This could've been national news," Upper Arlington Fire Division Lt. Alan Thompson said.

Thompson made the assessment last week as he, several of his UAFD colleagues and Betsey Eastwood recounted the July 25 fire that severely damaged her home at 2668 Berwyn Road and forced her and her family to take up temporary housing in a local condominium.

As the group stood outside the house, everyone concurred that without functioning smoke alarms, it's likely one or more of the six people and three dogs inside the house at the time wouldn't be alive today.

"I keep telling people it was so fast," Eastwood said. "You don't have time to go back and get things.

"I think we've lost about 75 percent of our belongings, but we feel so fortunate. (Smoke alarms) were instrumental in our story because without them, it would've been a different ending."

According to Eastwood's memory of the night and fire department logs, the family's smoke alarms went off at 11:25 p.m. July 25.

At the time, Betsey and her husband, Steve, were asleep, as were three members of the Roddy family, who were staying with the Eastwoods while waiting to move into a new home.

One of the Eastwoods' three daughters, 20-year-old Erin, also was in the house, and she was the only person awake when the alarms went off.

"You never think it's real, and my husband was trying to figure out how to turn the alarms off," Eastwood said. "But then my youngest daughter was in the front bedroom and she leaned out the door and saw smoke and screamed, 'Fire!' "

Before firefighters arrived -- within five minutes of being contacted by the Eastwoods' security company -- the four women in the house had scooped up their three dogs and exited.

Steve Eastwood tried momentarily to fight the fire with an extinguisher, but was forced to flee after flames singed his eyebrows.

Bill Roddy also stayed behind momentarily as he sought to retrieve his cellphone from an upstairs bedroom.

That choice almost proved disastrous, Betsey Eastwood said, because within the seconds it took for him to run back upstairs for the phone, a fire that started in the basement had filled the first floor with thick, black smoke.

Roddy almost couldn't see well enough to make it to the front door, and Eastwood said he burned his hand on the metal doorknob as he left the burning structure.

"Today, household products just fuel fires," Deputy Chief Mark Zambito. "It's petroleum products, the carpet, the computers, the couches."

Fire department officials said the incident should serve as a reminder that fire can strike anywhere.

They noted the cause was determined to be a faulty basement electrical outlet, which had nothing plugged into it at the time it sparked.

They also pointed to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association, which state the death rate in house fires is more than twice as high -- 1.18 deaths per 100 fires vs. 0.53 deaths per 100 fires -- in residences without working smoke alarms.

According to the NFPA, there are no smoke alarms present in 37 percent of house fire deaths, and in 23 percent of house fire deaths, smoke alarms were present but did not sound because they needed new batteries or were no longer functioning.

"You really need interconnected smoke alarms," UAFD Capt. Chris Zimmer said. "If (the Eastwoods) had a smoke alarm down in the basement and it was not connected, it would've been even longer before they were alerted.

"You need to sleep with your doors shut (to help prevent fires from spreading) and have smoke alarms in every bedroom."

The NFPA recommends installing interconnected smoke alarms in every bedroom and sleeping area, in hallways outside of sleeping areas and at least one on each level of a house.

It also recommends testing smoke alarms monthly and replacing batteries each year and any time the alarm emits a low-battery chirp.

Smoke alarms also should be replaced every 10 years, the NFPA says, noting that manufacture dates can be found on the backs of each device.

Betsey Eastwood said she expects to move back into the house her family has called home the last 13 years within a year after the start of reconstruction.

She said she never believed she would be a fire victim, given the condition of her family's house and her husband's meticulous checking and fixing issues that came up.

Functioning smoke alarms were the only thing that alerted those in the house before flames trapped them inside, she said.

"I just know it could've been so much different," Eastwood said. "The bigger picture here is: We may not have all of our things, but we're going to be able to put our family back."

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