Free smoke detectors offered in effort to combat fatal fires

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NEW ORLEANS - Smoke detectors can mean the difference in getting out of a burning home fast, or being trapped. 

So fire fighters are hoping to save lives with a free program.  

A local fire marshal sprung into action after seeing one too many tragedies.

More than two months later, the stuffed animals, wilted flowers, crosses and bibles still remain where twin, eight-year-old girls lost their lives in a Gretna house fire. They were blind and to this day, it touches the heart of  Deputy State Fire Marshal Byron Francois.  

"It brought me to tears. The fact that those two little girls was lost, especially the way they died, it was just tragic to me," said Francois, who was at the fire in October. 

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He personally started the teddy bear memorial, but it inspired him to do something else with a greater purpose.

"There's no reason for anyone to die in a fire who doesn't have a smoke detector. I'm willing to come out and install a smoke detector in your home and save someone's life," he insisted.

"We called the fire department and they had them out in like two days. They came in, told us where to put them, showed us how to install them and helped us install them, so it was great," said Brenda Miller, who lives nearby in Gretna. 

The state fire marshal's office will deliver and install smoke detectors for free. Deputy Francois says people must change the batteries twice a year and never disable them.

Christmas trees are dry and should be taken out and space heaters need to be five feet from everything. And burglar bars keep firefighters from being able to get in and put out the fire. 

"It's just been a rash of different things where people simply plugging in too many electrical cords into certain sockets, simply going to sleep and leaving their dryer on at night," Francois said of some of the causes of recent fires. 

One of the other things that Deputy Francois wants to do is bring a bunch of fire extinguishers to schools all over the area and teach children how to use them. He also wants to show them that there are different ones for different types of fires. 

"We have to make the citizens understand, you have to put up these smoke detectors. This is the way that we're going to be able to save lives," he reiterated. 


The State Fire Marshal and the New Orleans Fire Department offer the free smoke detector program. They can be contacted at the following numbers:

State Fire Marshal's Office: 225-925-1716
NOFD: 504-658-4714

For more information on specific causes of fires and prevention click here.