The smoke detector batteries were dead.

A fire in a home at 3 Cardington Avenue in Billerica, just 20-yards from Engine 3’s headquarters at 832 Boston Road, got a head start on firefighters tonight because despite the home’s location, the batteries in its smoke alarms were dead, according to a deputy chief.

The fire started in a second-floor bedroom for a reason that remains under investigation. Firefighters were not aware of it until a resident called 911 at 7:08 p.m., according to Deputy Fire Chief Tom Ferraro.

Once crews were notified, Engine 3 drove all of about 50 yards to the scene and got a report that a woman was still inside on the second floor. They asked for a second-alarm, and Firefighters John Duggan, Paul Dunton, Lt. Matthew Battcock and police Officer Dan Duggan all ran into the home.

Dan Duggan told me they found the woman on the first floor and helped her walk out of the home on her own. She was not hurt, and Ferraro said no firefighters were injured either.

Crews from Burlington, Bedford and Chelmsford headed to Billerica on the second alarm, and by the time I arrived at the scene about 7:45 p.m., the fire appeared to be under control, with just some smoke still coming from the second-floor.

Ferraro said crews were able to contain the fire damage to the second-floor, but that there was water damage throughout the first floor. He didn’t identify the residents and wasn’t sure how many folks were displaced. Police said the residents were planning to stay with friends and family tonight.

Ferraro said residents reported smelling smoke before discovering the fire. “We cannot emphasize enough how much working smoke detectors, one, would have alerted the residents more rapidly, and two, would have prevented damage,” Ferraro said.

I didn’t lead with the smoke alarm batteries being dead to suggest the residents are at fault. I spoke briefly to a female resident who seemed very nice and was obviously very upset. I hope she’s doing well tonight. “I don’t even know what to do right now,” she said.

It’s not hard to forget about batteries in an item you might only need once in your life, so before anyone judges these residents, maybe you should go check your own smoke alarms.

It’s easy to forget, but you just got reminded.

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