Beau Butcher (left), Accounting Executive for Star Insurance, presents a $500 check to Decatur Assistant Fire Chief Jim Hitchcock to help launch the department's campaign to provide smoke detectors and batteries to area residents. (Photo by Jannaya Andrews)
Decatur Assistant Fire Chief Jim Hitchcock has announced that the Decatur Fire Department is collecting money to purchase and distribute new smoke detectors and batteries to area residents.
According to Hitchcock, after nearly 25 years of having no fire-related deaths, Decatur has had five such fatalities in just over a two year period.
The department's goal is to raise money for smoke detectors and batteries to distribute to those in the community who need either or both. The fire department will install the new detectors, checking and replacing batteries, and will provide one-on-one fire prevention education, according to Hitchcock.
"We are asking local businesses and organizations for help," he said . "A simple detector or battery can be all the difference for a family to survive."
All donations are tax deductible.
Looking back at the five fire deaths, Hitchcock said the first occurred on October 2, 2009, when neighbors heard a smoke detector and called 911. Hitchcock said James Gravens was alive when fire crews arrived. However, Gravens suffered third-degree burns and died the following day.
On December 18, 2009, Tracey Hart was working in his parent's garage when they heard an explosion. Looking outside, they saw Tracey engulfed in flames, Hitchcock said. Tracey passed away on January 6, 2012.
A double fatality occured on August 11, 2011, when Claude and Donna West were unable to escape their burning home. During that investigation, Hitchcock said they could find no working smoke detectors in the home.
On January 3, 2012, firefighters responded to a house fire in Roe Acres where Dean Ingmire, a 16-year dispatcher for the Decatur Police Department, was found inside his home. Hitchcock said Ingmire was trying to escape but was overcome by smoke and fumes.
During that investigation, Hitchcock said it was discovered that there were three smoke detectors in the home. However, one was disconnected from the battery, one had a dead battery, and the third did not work for unknown reasons.
Hitchcock said fire investigators attribute the first fatality to the victim being handicapped, while the second was an accident, and the remaining three fatalities were attributed to no working smoke detectors in the home.
Hitchcock reminds residents that if your home detector goes off and you smell smoke, get out of the building first, then call 911. Go to a safe meeting place and account for all who were inside the home. Finally, once you are out, stay out. Allow fire crews to collect valuables or pets from inside the structure.