SOUTH BEND -- More people are dying in fires and here's why it's so startling: most of those deaths could have been prevented.
Indiana's fire marshal says most of those fatal fires involved homes without smoke detectors or working ones. Jim Greeson spoke Thursday at the South Bend Central Fire Station.
Two girls who were just 4- and 6-years-old died in an apartment fire earlier this year in South Bend. There were no working smoke detectors in the home.
"It's very frustrating," said Greeson.
That's why Greeson and South Bend Fire Marshal Federico Rodriguez called a news conference to drive home the importance of detectors.
"Smoke alarms are inexpensive and easy to install, and they save lives by giving people that extra few minutes to escape safely," Rodriguez explained.
54 people have died in fires so far this year in Indiana. This is already more than the total number of people killed in all of last year.
Greeson says the vast majority of those fire fatalities were in homes without working smoke detectors. He thinks that many people don't have working smoke detectors because they feel that a tragic fire "just won't happen to them."
If you can't afford a smoke detector, fire departments across the state may be able to help. The fire marshal applied for federal grant money to give low-income families free smoke detectors. A similar grant previously allowed them to provide special fire alarms to the deaf and hard of hearing. A few of those devices are still available.
A smoke detector is a simple device, but it can mean the difference between life and death.
The South Bend Fire Department also has a Good Neighborhood Program that will help provide fire alarms to people who can't afford them. State law says you have to have at least one in every home. But firefighters suggest having one on every floor. Ideally, one outside every bedroom. That way you'll be sure to hear the alarm when it goes off.