Fire departments urge people to check smoke alarms, set up home escape plans

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 6:53 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2021 at 7:07 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Richmond Fire Department and Chesterfield Fire and EMS are urging people to check their smoke alarms and come up with a fire escape plan.

This comes as six people lost their lives in three house fires in Richmond and Chesterfield within one week.

Richmond Fire Marshal Earl Dyer said it’s important for people to install smoke alarms in their homes.

He suggests people should test their detectors at least once a month and replace the batteries twice a year.

“The fire, for every 30 seconds it burns, doubles in size,” Dyer said.

The Richmond Fire Department reports an uptick in deadly house fires. This year, the department reports eight fatalities, which increased from the two deaths reported in 2019 and 2020.

“Some of those fatalities were the result of people having smoke detectors that did not work or had smoke detectors that weren’t installed properly, or had no smoke detectors at all,” Dyer said.

This includes the mother and two children who died in a house fire on Banton Street on Sunday. The Richmond Fire Department says the smoke detectors weren’t working and hadn’t been replaced since 2002.

Sal Luciano, chief deputy fire marshal with Chesterfield Fire and EMS, also believes this is the case for the fatal house fires on Flynn Road and at Shady Hill Mobile Homes.

“We can’t 100 percent say that there was not working smoke alarms, but at this point, there was no indication that they had working smoke alarms,” he said. “We weren’t able to locate them, and there was no witnesses that said they heard the smoke alarm going off during the time of the fire.”

Within the last week, Luciano says their requests for free smoke alarm installations have increased.

Now, he’s urging families to have an open discussion about their own home escape plan.

“That includes a meeting place on the outside and how to get from different areas of the home to outside,” Luciano said. “If you have a two-story house...have an emergency escape ladder.”

Dyer says people can call the Richmond Fire Department to make their appointment to install their free smoke alarm or check if its working. If you would like to schedule an smoke alarm installation, you can call (804)-646-1526.

Chesterfield Fire and EMS also offers free smoke detectors through their program. If you’re interested, you can fill out the smoke alarm request form online.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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