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As deadly fires increase, state officials look to equip Hoosiers with smoke detectors

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- State fire investigators say the cause of the fire that killed six people, including four children, in Logansport last month cannot be determined.

What is clear is that the home didn’t have any working smoke detectors that may have alerted the family when the fire broke out. Fire officials say they’re now working on a plan that would use federal grant money to help prevent more Hoosier deaths by supplying thousands of residents with smoke detectors

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security received nearly $1.3 million thanks to a combination of federal grants. The money will allow IDHS to access more equipment and training for firefighters and first responders, purchase and install more than 10,000 smoke detectors and 1,000 shaking bed/strobe alarms for deaf and increase education about fire hazards.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure the residents and the citizens of Indiana have a way to protect themselves in their homes,” said State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson.

Greeson says over the past few years, the number of fatal fire deaths has increased in the Hoosier State. In 2017, there were 72 deaths; this year there have already been 85 with a few weeks remaining. It's particularly disturbing as the winter months are typically the time when fire deaths increase.

“That’s almost 160 fire deaths in two years. In three years it’s over 200 fire deaths,” Greeson said.

Nationally, more than two-thirds of fatal fires occur in homes with no smoke detectors or detectors that did not function properly.

“It’s the top target of our agency and our division to make sure we get these smoke alarms out to the state of Indiana,” Greeson said.

Greeson knows placing working smoke detectors in Hoosier homes can help reduce those numbers. Now he says the important job is getting them to those who need them the most.

“We want to be successful, we want to bring these numbers down,” he said.

Along with the smoke detectors, Greeson says IDHS is also working to create a heat map that would help identify areas of the state with high amounts of fire fatalities. The hope is the map can help the agency target prevention and education efforts.

Greeson says now that the agency has been awarded the grant money, it can purchase the smoke detectors. Hoosiers will then be able to visit this website and request one.

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