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Editorial: Incidents drive home importance of smoke alarms

Nov. 04, 2013 @ 11:24 AM

Lesage resident Joe Fragale’s brush with fire last spring turned out OK.

The same was true for the South Point, Ohio, family of Beverly Edmonds and her two children back in January.

Both Fragale and Edmonds managed to escape fires in their respective homes, fires that occurred while they were sleep­ing. The sound of smoke detectors awak­ened them, allowing them to escape their homes before being overcome by smoke and potentially killed.

Those are just two of the stories area people have lived to tell about the impor­tance of smoke detectors. Those are the happy reminders.

Unfortunately, a tragic exclamation point was put on that message this week in Beckley, W.Va. An early morning fire Monday in a home there claimed the lives of five people — 2-year-old twins, a 4-year-old, an 11-year-old and those chil­dren’s father. The children’s mother and an adult male who was also in the house remain at a Pennsylvania burn center.

Elkins Fire Chief Tom Meader said the fire blocked the house’s main exits, and the only smoke detector lacked batter­ies. So there was no alarm to awake the household and give five of its occupants time to escape death. Now, the fire ranks as one of the state’s most deadly in recent yea rs .

The lack of a working smoke detector is far too often a factor in fire fatalities. The National Fire Protection Association reports that almost two-thirds of residen­tial fire deaths in the nation in 2005-2009 were in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. The associa­tion says having a working smoke alarm cuts by half the chances of dying in a fire.

That’s the lesson that all households should take from the stories of Fragale, the Edmonds family and the devastated family from Elkins — smoke detectors can save lives. These devices aren’t over­ly expensive, and many fire departments offer them free of charge or at reduced prices and will install them.

Now is an opportune time for house­holds without smoke detectors to apply this lesson, as the calendar turns to the year’s colder months and the risks of resi­dential fires become even greater during the heating season.

The U.S. Fire Administration says heat­ing fires — those caused by functioning or malfunctioning central heating units, fixed or portable local heating units, fire­places, chimneys and water heaters — are the second leading cause of residen­tial fires. Fixed and portable space heat­ers, including wood stoves, are involved in about three-quarters of fire-related deaths, the administration reports.

So take fire prevention experts’ advice. If your home doesn’t have smoke alarms, install them on every level of a home and particularly inside and near sleeping areas. If you have smoke detectors, test them to make sure they are still work­ing and that batteries are still providing power.

That advice could save your life and the lives of your loved ones.



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