Seven Lives Saved Thanks to New Smoke Alarm
Galesburg Fire Department
GALESBURG, IL -- Unemployment and underemployment is widespread in Galesburg, which means homeowners and renters cannot afford extra luxuries, like smoke alarms and other fire protection measures. Galesburg Fire Chief Thomas Simkins states, "Our unemployment rate has increased from 9.4 percent in the early part of 2009 to a current level of 9.9 percent."
The Galesburg Fire Department received a Fire Prevention & Grant to assist in outfitting 3,300 smoke alarms to a strategically-targeted number of low-income residences in an initiative they called "Door-to-Door Smoke Alarm Installations."
"Recognizing Galesburg's local statistics reflect national statistics," said Chief Simkins. "The very old and very young are the most at risk to die in a fire." The department targeted occupants in Galesburg older than 75 and younger than 5 years of age.
For one family, the installation of a smoke alarm by the Galesburg Fire Department would prove to be a life-saving endeavor.
Around 6:30 a.m. on June 29, a fire broke out in the kitchen of a home that had seven people sleeping on three different floors. Ages of the occupants ranged from 2 months to 70 years old.
The recently installed smoke alarm woke Allana Hudson, 21, who found part of the kitchen engulfed in flames. Allana feared her 2-week-old and 17-month-old could not survive the intense amount of smoke. Her cousin, George Hudson, 25, kicked out a second-story window and jumped onto an awning, and then onto the driveway. George motioned to have Allana and her friend Kristan lower the children down to him one at a time. Both children were caught successfully, but Allana suffered a broken foot while jumping from the second-story window. A passing roofer stopped to provide a ladder for Kristan to escape from the second story.
Still inside, Allana's uncle, William Hudson, was trapped by the smoke in the basement.
"The smoke was so thick, you couldn't see your hand in front of your face," Allana said. Once Allana, Kristan, and the children were safe, George kicked in the door to the basement, freeing William Hudson. William proceeded to run back into the house and save his mother, Ester Hammond, 70.
The family escaped within three minutes of the smoke alarm alert. The first units arrived a few minutes later. Everyone in the house escaped.
"One of the smoke detectors was part of a program we started a year ago," said Chief Simkins. "We feel like that may have saved the day here. [There] could have been seven fatalities in the house."
FEMA's Fire Prevention & Safety Activity Grant helped the Galesburg Fire Department in their program, which worked out exactly as planned and the ultimate goal was achieved – saving lives.