Tragedy struck Orrington Nov. 10, when a house fire killed a 30-year-old man and his three children, ages 9, 8 and 4, and sent his 31-year-old wife to the hospital.

This is the deadliest fire to occur in Maine in 20 years.

Despite courageous efforts of both first responders and neighbors who rushed to the scene after hearing screaming, the home was immediately engulfed with smoke and quick-moving flames.

The fire was caused by empty cardboard boxes stored near a wood-burning stove, and may have been enhanced by a container of lighter fluid that was found nearby.

Although this was the deadliest fire in Maine since 1992, tragic fires are not uncommon, killing an average of nine people every day in the United States, according to the National Fire Prevention Association.

These tragedies and property losses, however, can be prevented by the installation of fire sprinklers and properly working fire alarms. Fire sprinkler systems that are properly installed and maintained regularly can reduce the injuries suffered and damage sustained by the home.

Fire can strike at any time and in any type of home, but fire sprinklers can control and even can extinguish a fire before the fire department arrives on the scene.

Fire sprinklers also mitigate the risk to individuals affected by the blaze, including firefighters. They are the only proactive form of fire protection.

I urge everyone to check the batteries in their fire alarms and learn about laws and ordinances in their municipality and state and how to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community from the ravages of fire.

Russell Fleming, president

National Fire Sprinkler Association

Patterson, N.Y.