Ind. Fire Marshal Links Fatalities to Lack of Detectors

June 7, 2013
There have been 54 fire deaths in Indiana this year and the state fire marshal says the commonality among most of them is the lack of working smoke detectors.

June 06--SOUTH BEND -- There's a troubling commonality between many of the 54 fire fatalities that have occurred in Indiana since the beginning of the year.

It's not the neighborhoods where they've occurred, or even how the deadly fires started. It's the fact that most of the fatalities occurred in homes where residents were not alerted by smoke alarms.

"It's not just one area, it's all throughout the state," Indiana State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson said of the spike in deadly fires at a Thursday news conference at the South Bend Fire Department.

Greeson added that many of these fatalities happened in structures that either did not have smoke alarms or did not have working batteries in the detector.

Fire departments across the state are concerned by the high number of fire-related deaths, which has already surpassed the 46 fatalities reported in all of 2012.

Four people have died in fires in South Bend so far this year, including two children who died in February. There were no fire fatalities in the city in 2012.

Although state law only requires homeowners to install one working smoke alarm in every residence, firefighters suggest installing at least one detector outside each sleeping area and on each level of the house.

"Smoke alarms are inexpensive and easy to install, and they save lives by giving people that extra few minutes to escape," South Bend Fire Marshal Federico Rodriguez said.

There are several different types of smoke alarms. Ionization smoke alarms easily recognize flames and fast-moving fires, while photoelectric smoke alarms are better at alerting residents to smoldering fires that produce lots of smoke. There are also combination smoke alarms that use both types of sensors.

"We recommend that you have a smoke alarm that fits your needs," Greeson explained.

Several years ago the state received a grant to distribute specially designed smoke alarm systems to households with hearing-impaired residents. Greeson said there are still a few units remaining, and anyone in need can contact his or her local fire department.

Rodriquez reminded South Bend residents that anyone who needs help acquiring or installing a smoke alarm can visit the Central Fire Station at 1222 S. Michigan St. or call 574-235-9255.

Greeson also stressed the importance of fire prevention and fire safety in decreasing the number of fatal fires. He cited unattended cooking, candles that are knocked over or left too close to flammable objects, space heaters and kerosene heaters, and cigarettes that aren't completely snuffed out as some of the common causes of house fires.

And if a fire does start, getting out of the building safely must be everyone's first priority.

"We encourage people to have a plan of how to evacuate your home," Greeson said. "Once you're out of the home, do not go back in. Call 911, the professionals are on the way."

Staff writer Vicky Jacobsen: [email protected]

Copyright 2013 - South Bend Tribune, Ind.

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