Community gets free smoke detectors after deadly fire

SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Days after a deadly Upstate house fire, state and local fire officials are working to prevent it from happening again.

So far this year 68 people have died in fires in South Carolina. That includes 5 in Spartanburg County.

One house after the other, homeowners in a Spartanburg community were greeted with people trying to save their lives.

“The awareness is great,” said homeowner Carrie Chesebro.

Just down the street from her home on Idlewood Circle, Christopher Gibson, 43, died in a fire along with his dog Tuesday morning.

“It was just heart breaking,” said Chesebro.

Fire officials say it’s unclear if the home had working smoke detectors, but the fire remains under investigation.

“We do know he had a smoke detector whether it was working or not,” said Converse Fire Department Assistant Chief Chris Weathersbee. “That could have been a possibility that could have helped save his life.”

The State Fire Marshal’s office says about 80% of homes are not adequately protected.

“We say that you need a smoke alarm on each level of the home in every sleeping room and the area outside the sleeping room,” said Assistant State Fire Marshal Nathan Ellis. “We want to prevent the fire but fires are not all preventable but fatalities are preventable. Folks, in today’s world the technology exist and it’s fairly inexpensive – smoke alarms.”

Crews from several departments were armed with 300 smoke detectors from Vision 2020 and the Red Cross.

“When we ran out of our grant, Red Cross pursued other sources of funding,” said Ellis. “They got smoke alarms. They continued the program and really have built it up to be a national program.”

Closer to home, a new program called “Fire Safe South Carolina” was launched in June to help get more smoke detectors into homes that need them.

“We had two in our home. Now we have five,” said Chesebro. “I just bought a new one a week or two ago and it was 7 dollars. I mean, 7 dollars can save your life.”

Educating people about how to safely react to fires was also important. Officials say families should establish a plan of action that includes a meeting place like their mailbox.

The people who were not home or didn’t answer the door received a notice on their door to find out how to get smoke detectors.

Spartanburg County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) was also on hand assisting with the smoke detector blitz.