Using Tragedy to Educate

The cause of a fatal house fire last weekend in northwest Houston is still pending, but the Houston Fire Department is using the tragedy to neighbors about the importance of having a smoke detector. Pat Hernandez has more.


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It took firefighters ninety-minutes to put out the blaze on Emnora in Northwest Houston. The body of a man was recovered near the front door. Eli Shahade came to the house where his friend and co-worker lived.

“He was very sincere. A very nice person. He would give you the shirt off his back, and he just always liked life.”

Hernandez: “How did you find out about this fire?”

Shahade: “I had a friend of mine from work and he called me Saturday night. He called me and told me, ‘Richard died.’ I said, ‘What!’ I said, ‘it’s a joke.’ And he said, ‘No, his house got burned.’ And really since then, I haven’t been the same.”

Melissa Flores lives next door to the badly damaged house.

“I fell asleep at 2:30 and I didn’t hear anything.”

Houston firefighter Pedro Hinojosa was at the scene to talk to Flores and other residents in the neighborhood about fire safety.

“We visited about a hundred homes this morning door to door, knocked and give the citizens fire safety information, and also provided them with a battery, if needed, for the smoke detector. And also, provided them with a working smoke detector, if they needed one.”

He says most fires are preventable with a smoke detector.

“In the United States, ninety two percent of the homes have a smoke detector. One third of those homes have one, but it’s not working.”

Eli Shahade calls his friend’s death tragic.

“And I think this is the worst death you can ever have. Fire especially, it’s slow and terrible…painful, you know?”

Properly installed and maintained smoke alarms and detectors are considered to be one of the best and least expensive means of providing an early warning. It could reduce the risk of death due to fire by almost half.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.

image suggesting where to place smoke detectors

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