Fire service leaders issue call for working smoke alarms

Published 8:17 pm Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, Baltimore Fire Chief James Clack and Washington, D.C. Fire Chief Dennis Rubin has joined United States Fire Administrator (USFA) Greg Cade to ask all residents of this nation to install, maintain and test their smoke alarms today.

This national effort is a result of one of the deadliest holiday seasons in recent memory and several significant fires in the first days of 2009. Since Thanksgiving 2008, there have been more than 158 fatal fires in the United States resulting in over 200 fire fatalities.

“The 2008 holiday season and the start of 2009 may be recorded as one of the deadliest for residential fires in recent memory of the fire service,” said Cade. “Not only has there been a significant number of preventable fires, but the occurrences of multiple fatalities resulting from these fires are simply unacceptable within our nation. There should be a smoke alarm protecting every person in this nation today, particularly as we sleep.”

On Christmas Eve, four died in a house fire in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. All of the victims were children and officials cannot be certain whether smoke alarms worked.

Four adults and three children died in a southwest Philadelphia home the day after Christmas when gasoline was used to fuel a kerosene heater. There were no working smoke alarms in the home.

In Baltimore, two people died in a fire above a grocery store. A young couple died in the blaze and investigators found no working smoke alarms in the building.

In Washington, D.C. on New Year’s Day, six individuals died in a house fire on Jackson Street, Northeast. While the cause was listed as accidental/electrical, officials are not sure smoke alarms worked properly.

In the event of a fire, a properly installed and maintained smoke alarm can save your life and those of your loved ones. Smoke alarms are a very important means of preventing home fire fatalities by providing an early warning signal so you and your family can escape. They are one of the best safety devices you can buy and install to protect yourself, your family, and your home.

You can prevent tragedies simply by testing and maintaining your smoke alarms and practicing a fire escape plan. All smoke alarms in your house should be tested once a month and their batteries replaced annually or as indicated by the manufacturer’s instructions.

For additional information regarding smoke alarms, visit

For additional information regarding the United States Fire Administration, visit

The USFA reminds everyone to have a comprehensive fire protection plan that includes smoke alarms, residential sprinklers and practicing a home fire escape plan.

— from staff reports