By RACHEL C. DOVE
CHARLESTON - A recent tragedy in Charleston has, once again, brought to light the great importance of installing smoke detectors in your home and place of business.
Saturday morning, a house fire occurred near St. Albans that has now claimed its ninth victim after 7-year-old Timothy Bryan Camp was taken off life support Sunday afternoon.
He was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Charleston Area Medical Center with severe burns following the fire. Eight others, including two adults and six children whose ages range from 18 months to 8 years, lost their lives in one of the most horrific fire-related tragedies firefighters serving that area has experienced in recent years.
According to preliminary reports released by the State Fire Marshalls Office, the origin is still unknown but there are no signs that support that this was a case of arson. Firefighters continue to rake through the ashes and rubble of the home for any clues as to what may have caused the blaze that quickly engulfed the two-story wood structure.
Williamson Fire Chief Jerry Mounts spoke with the Daily News concerning disturbing news of no working fire or smoke detectors inside the home, and said he had been told the only detector that was found was inside a cabinet, non-operational.
“We can’t emphasize enough the importance of working smoke detectors inside of a home,” said Chief Mounts. “I have seen proof of how they can and will save lives many times during my career as a professional firefighter.”
The chief explained that according to West Virginia Statute 29-3-16, all single and multi-family dwellings are required to have a working smoke detector in the immediate sleeping area. He stated that his department takes these rules to a higher level, recommending that the detectors be present in each bedroom, in the hallway, in the basement, attic, garage and any other sections of the home that are not located in close vicinity to a room with a detector.
“You can purchase a smoke detector for as little as $5,” said the chief. “Even if you install those throughout several rooms of your home, you’re still probably not going to spend more that $25 to $30 dollars.
“That cost is minimal; your loved ones are priceless. You can’t put a cost on human lives.”
Mounts spoke of the program he was successful with implementing approximately eight years ago that made smoke detectors available to low-income families who could not afford to purchase the life-saving devices on their own.
“I was very proud of the program the Williamson Fire Department participated in with the Williamson Rotary Club and the Daily News for well over 6 years that provided free detectors for needy families,” said Mounts. “Sadly, the Rotary Club no longer has the available funding to sponsor the giveaway, but we would love to find another organization willing to assist us with this important community service.
“There’s nothing more heartbreaking than the helpless feeling a firefighter experiences when he realizes there are people inside a fully engulfed fire and no way to save them. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have lost such a large number of their loved ones all at the same time during the fatal fire in Charleston.”
Mounts said that he hopes hearing the news of this tragic event will open the eyes of local residents to the fact that this horrific loss could occur anywhere, and should take every precaution available to prevent this in their homes.
“I’m positive that if this family could go back in time and spend $25-$30 dollars and all be alive and well today, they would not hesitate,” said Mounts. “Such a small amount could quite possibly have prevented this tragedy.
“Smoke detectors save lives; it’s just that simple.”
For more information on fire safety tips for your home or place of employment, contact Chief Mounts by calling 304-235-5273, or 235-2073.