INDIANAPOLIS — In the first 30 days of 2023, six people are dead after four fatal house fires. The fatalities already match all of 2022.
”I don’t recall a time where we have had this many fatalities in a one-month period,” said Mike Beard, the Indianapolis Fire Dept. division chief.
In all of 2022, there were six fatal house fires. The uptick so far this year worries Beard.
”We want to make sure people are safe, we want to make sure people can do what they need to do to get out of their homes in case of emergency, like a fire,” Beard said.
An even more concerning trend, three of these fatal fires happened in homes without working smoke detectors.
On Jan. 9, a father and two kids died in an apartment fire on Elwin Dr. Firefighters then found a man dead from smoke inhalation in a home on W. 61st Street on Jan. 17. On Tuesday morning, crews said a 61-year-old woman died after being taken out of a house fire on Irvington Avenue.
The coroner’s office later identified the deceased woman as 61-year-old Theresa Murry.
There were no working smoke detectors in any of the homes.
Heartbreakingly, IFD said firefighters found smoke detectors still in their original packaging waiting to be installed in the house fire Tuesday morning.
”If that smoke alarm is in that increases the chances that that resident could have gotten out of the home,” Beard said.
IFD is asking everyone to go check their smoke detectors and make sure they still work and that you have one on each floor.
”If they are over 10 years old, they need to be replaced,” Beard said. “Make sure they’re operating, test them. If the batteries need to be changed, please change them.”
Michael Pruitt with the Bargersville Fire Department said when they see fatal fires they usually find out there were no working smoke detectors in the house.
”Those gasses that those smoldering fires give off basically will take our life and we never even know the fire is occurring,” Pruitt said.
Bargersville will do sweeps to check for smoke detectors in homes and find plenty of examples of people not doing proper upkeep.
”We find smoke alarms that are 20, 30 years old, painted over, that aren’t even functional,” Pruitt said.
IFD did a smoke detector sweep in a neighborhood where one of the fatal fires occurred this year.
”That triggers us to actually go out and check the neighbor, check the people around them and make sure they have those,” Beard said.
Both Pruitt and Beard said firefighters are more than willing to come out and check your smoke detectors or install a new one.
”With those smoke alarms they reduce the risk of dying in a fire by half,” Beard said.
To have the Indianapolis Fire Department install a smoke detector in your home, visit this site.