Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Words on Fire

In a world where we are bombarded daily with multiple news stories, how do you decide which stories you'll read or view?

You go to the stories that appeal to you, of course – stories that relate to your career, hobbies, or whatever you find interesting.  

Take a moment to read my previous posts, and you'll see a disproportionate number of entries on fire-related stories.  After fifteen years in the fire service, my eye is naturally drawn to stories about fire and firefighting.  And when the fire happens in my neighborhood, you bet I'm going to tune in or click through to get the scoop!  Inquiring minds want to know – and so do nosy neighbors.

Today's post is about that very type of incident, but this was more than just your run-of-the-mill house fire.  This case involved a domestic dispute in which a man rammed his car into a house, barricaded himself inside and then torched the place.  Fortunately, the target of the attack was able to get out safely.  Unfortunately, she faces some difficult times ahead.

Naturally, a story like this receives a lot of local media attention.  Just to be clear, it is the reporting blunders I'm poking fun at today, not the horrible situation that unfolded Sunday night.

I found this head-scratcher on the web site of a local television station.  Their camera crew captured spectacular footage of the fully – and I mean fully – involved structure, which was posted with the written story.  Yet the reporter wrote:

"Officials said the house may not be salvageable."

Do tell.  I'm not necessarily faulting the "official" who said this, because government officials often err on the side of ambiguity when dealing with the press.  But anyone who sees this video can safely assume the house was totally destroyed (and it was).  It is that obvious.  Now, it's possible that this reporter didn't see her own station's footage before posting the story.  If she did, then including this particular comment just looks silly.

Later in the article, this same reporter notes that fire crews were on the scene some nine or ten hours later, still dousing hot spots.  Here's a tip:  If firefighters are actively working a scene that long after the fire started, there's a pretty good chance that the structure is not salvageable.
Next up:  A story on a local newspaper's web site, written two days after the incident, says the whole thing began "about 11:15 a.m."  Well, give or take twelve hours because the correct time was 11:15 p.m.  That's just sloppy work.

This last one is from that same story – and frankly, it speaks for itself:

"…the house, valued at $282,000 by the El Paso Cunty assessor…"

Wow.  Does anyone know how to use spell check anymore?  Anyone?

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