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David Vogel

Faces of Fire

David Vogel was badly burned after an unattended candle ignited a fire in his home.

“Smoke alarms aren’t the complete solution – additional backup is necessary. If I had known about home fire sprinklers even being an option as I rebuilt, my house would have them.”

Name: David Vogel
Date of fire: February 15, 2004
Age at time of fire: 47
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Injury: Burned as the result of a candle fire.
Download David's Faces of Fire story (PDF) 

David VogelLooking back, David Vogel knows that people make mistakes, and sometimes the size of the mistake isn’t directly proportionate to the impact. It was a mistake by a family member who left a candle burning unattended that led to a house fire in February 2004.

David was awakened at 5 a.m. by smoke and the sounds of yelling. After soaking the burning mattress in the shower and thinking he had quenched the fire, he saw the bedroom was illuminated by growing flames. The fire was now spreading quickly through the wood and plaster walls of the 1850s era house he had renovated. Once out of the house, he heard his stepson's screams and ran back through the fire to help the boy and his friend escape. It was not until after everyone was safely out of the house that David noticed the bloody footprints in the snow — his own footprints. He had been badly burned.

Emergency personnel responded quickly, as they were only a few blocks away. Paramedics laid David, who was now in shock, on a metal table to maintain skin integrity. They gave him IV fluids and sedated him. He was blacking out by the time they reached the hospital. David awoke two months later – 40 pounds lighter and skin grafts covering approximately 25 percent of his body. He spent another month in a rehabilitation hospital, received extensive out-patient therapy after discharge and went through several successful skin grafts. Doctor's thought the emergency intubation the paramedics performed on him the night of the fire may have permanently paralyzed his vocal cords. Yet with determination and continual exercises, he beat the odds.

Today, David tries not to worry about the small stuff. For example, without many of his pores, he has to take special care of his skin to regulate his body temperature. But he has tackled his dreams with a new sense of wonder and passion for life. He remembers being winded after walking just one mile during his initial recovery. Within a year, he was hiking the Long Trail, a 272 mile long trail running the length of Vermont, from Canada to Massachusetts. He knows he has come far and feels fortunate that his life is "back to normal".

He wishes he had known about the availability and affordability of installing fire sprinklers in his home when he rebuilt following the fire. His contractor never mentioned them.