CHICAGO — Chicago firefighters say if your smoke detector goes off you have less than two minutes to get out. However, some people aren't getting that warning and it's claiming lives.
Firefighters tell WGN’s Courtney Gousman that when it comes to fatal fires in the city, there are areas that are more prone to having them. There’s an unfortunate correlation between deadly fires and socioeconomics.
That's why firefighters are working hard to put working smoke detectors in the hands of those who need them — for little to no cost.
Later this month, the next crop of Chicago firefighters, more than 100 men and women, will be graduating. After that, the fires they respond to will be real emergencies.
Deputy District Chief, Walter Schroeder, is the Chicago Fire Department’s Public Education Coordinator.
“Right now we’re running over 72% of our fire fatalities do not have a working smoke detector,” Schroeder said. He also said that so far in 2019, 20 people have died in Chicago fires.
But in the past five years, 2018 had the highest number of fire fatalities with 46 deaths — including 10 children pulled from inside a Little Village home.
“There was not a working smoke detector there. That is heartbreaking,” said Schroeder.
Firefighters said when it comes to fatal fires, there are areas of the city that are at a higher risk.
Part of the problem is the illegal conversions of old buildings, which can lead to electrical fires and no working smoke detectors.
WGN asked the deputy chief if there’s a correlation between socioeconomics and fatal fires.
“Yes absolutely. And it’s evident where our fires are,” he responded.
That’s why after every fatal fire, firefighters return to the neighborhood to pass out free smoke detectors. Fire crews have given away an estimated 68,000 smoke detectors in the last five years, thanks to grants and corporate donations.
“Smoke detectors save lives. We’re trying to get as many smoke detectors to the public as possible and one of the main reasons people don’t have a smoke detector is the cost.”
To fix that problem, this weekend, CFD is partnering with Chicago Home Depot stores to offer a deep discount to those in need of smoke detectors. You can get one for just 99 cents. It’s the second time they’ve run this program.
“It was an incredible success back in January when they sold and provided more than 11,000 smoke detectors,” said Schroeder.
When you get your smoke detector there are some things you need to know, such as the batteries need to be changed every six months.
“Don’t wait for the chirp. It’s too late. This is what your life is relying on,” said the CFD deputy chief.
He also said, you should test your detector every month and look for the date of manufacture. You have 10 years from that date to get a new one.
“The city requires and what’s safe is one on every level within 15 feet of all sleeping quarters.”
When you hear this alarm go off, know you have less than two minutes to get out.
You can buy 99 cent smoke detectors from any of Chicago’s 10 Home Depots — plus the one in Cicero. The offer starts Friday, Sept. 13 and runs through Sunday, as long as supplies last.
Senior citizens who need help with installation can dial 311 to request a firefighter’s assistance.