Officials hand out smoke detectors
03 Jun 2005
By Brian McBride News-Gazette Staff Writer

After a tragic fire last month that killed three people in a mobile home, including a 4-year-old boy, the Kissimmee Fire Department began walking door-to-door Friday handing out free smoke detectors in an awareness campaign.

The campaign, which will target mobile home parks and single-family homes through the city, began Friday at the Whispering Oaks Mobile Home Park, where the deadly fire occurred.

Acquired through a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, firefighters are handing out 3,100 detectors free of charge.

“We like to think that in this day and age every home has a smoke detector, but we know they do not,” said Kissimmee Fire Chief Bob King.

Moises Matute, 34, Susie Matute, 32, and their 4-year-old son, Kenneth, were found dead May 17 in their park trailer at 1510 Royal Ave. The fire was so intense that it destroyed two vehicles on each side of the home and damaged two neighboring mobile homes.

While the investigation is still ongoing and had not determined whether the victims had a smoke detector, King said the end result of the fire might have been very different.

“We know when there are smoke detectors the chance of getting out of a structure is a lot greater,” King said.

On May 30, firefighters responded to a fire on Carson Street where four residents were able to flee a burning home after a smoke alarm sounded.

“If definitely saved them from serious injuries if not their lives,” King said.

The campaign, which was launched to educate about the need for smoke detectors, was not a direct result of the mobile home fire, King said. Applying for the grant began last year.

“We wish we would have gotten them sooner,” King said. “The fire may not have been as tragic.”

Firefighters planned to visit other mobile home parks to hand out the detectors. A schedule is being made to map out the timeframe of other firefighter visits.

According to United States Fire Administration statistics, a functioning fire alarm reduces the risk of death by nearly 50 percent and nearly 60 percent of residential fire-related fatalities occur in homes with no smoke alarms.

“There is no reason that anybody should be without a smoke detector in the city of Kissimmee,” King said,