A family in Clinton, Iowa is teaming up with firefighters around the midwestern U.S. to turn a terrible tragedy into an educational program that will probably save many people from suffering deadly smoke inhalation or severe burns due to house fires.
Four members of the town's Molitor family--two young boys, their mother, and their grandmother--all died of smoke inhalation after a chair caught fire in their Clinton home two years ago. The most heartbreaking aspect is that this was a small fire, which started in a chair. Unfortunately, the burning chair generated a lot of smoke quickly, and the family members who stayed too long in the house (rather than evacuating immediately and calling 911 from outside) were overcome by smoke, fell unconscious, and died. It takes just one or two breaths of smoky air to make a person pass out. In fact, 70 percent of all fire deaths are from smoke inhalation, not burns.
Furthermore, "there was not a smoke detector in the house, and there wasn't even a heat detector," said one family member recently. "There was nothing to alert some of them until it was too late. That is the worst part about it--this tragedy could have been prevented."
But since the fire, the family and the Clinton Fire Department have found a way to use this great loss to help save others. "The best thing we could do was get that information out to the public so it doesn't happen to anyone else," says one local fire official. So the Clinton FD created the "smoke detector project" just days after the fire. They will provide a smoke detector to anyone who needs one, for free--they'll even install it.
In the last two years the Clinton FD has installed more than 2,500 smoke detectors, and their program is now being instituted across the state. Also, Iowa firefighters are working to create a national smoke detector project.
The best part: The local smoke detector project has already saved a number of lives, which makes the Molitor family's terrible loss a little easier to bear. "If one life was saved, that is more than enough for them to use our last name in publicizing the program," said one Molitor family member. "If a thousand lives can be saved, I'll say that my family members' lives were not lost in vain."
Iowa's Smoke Detector Project is organized by fire marshals from around the state. Other states around the country also have free smoke detector programs. For information on obtaining a free smoke detector, call your local fire department or type in the words "free smoke detector" plus the name of your state into www.Google.com.
If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.