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'Be more vigilant,' firefighters urge after 48 die in Virginia house fires in 2021

'Having a working smoke alarm is a small price to pay for your life'
Fatal Fire
Posted at 4:49 PM, Oct 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-07 17:21:39-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Forty-eight people have died in fires in Virginia this year as of Oct. 1 and nearly a quarter of those victims lived in the Richmond.

There have been 11 deaths in eight Richmond house fires, with the two most recent happening in August.

Officials with the Richmond Fire Department shared some of the names of the victims Thursday, including a mother and two children and an elderly couple who died in those August fires.

The investigations into the fires had a lot of commonalities, according to firefighters. There were no working smoke alarms in six of the fires, victims falling in the high risk age categories, and causes being electrical or improperly discard smoking materials, officials said.

Nine people died in fires in Chesterfield County so far in 2021, officials said.

In the wake of the tragedies, the department has canvassed over 15,000 homes and installed over 400 smoke alarms.

"The caveat to this is that we cannot do this alone, the greater burden falls on you, the public, to be more vigilant, to be more aware of your surroundings. And for you to protect those you love. Having a working smoke alarm is a small price to pay for your life," Battalion Chief Earl Dyer, Richmond Fire Marshal, said.

The news conference happened as part of Fire Prevention Week, which aims to spread the word about how to stay safe in case of a fire.

This year's focus works to explain the different sounds the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms make.

"Knowing what to see or hear when assessing your smoke alarm is imperative," officials said.

  • A continuous set of three loud beeps—beep, beep, beep—means smoke or fire. Get out, call 9-1-1, and stay out.
  • A single chirp every 30 or 60 seconds means the battery is low and must be changed.
  • Chirping that continues after the battery has been replaced means the alarm is at the end of its life and the unit must be replaced.

“The best time to check your smoke alarms is now. As the winter months approach, and more families are staying inside, being aware benefits your entire family," Virginia Department of Fire Programs Acting Executive Director Garrett Dyer said. "Fire prevention week is the perfect time for discussions with your family on how to stay safe."

The Richmond Fire Department does have a free smoke alarm program. Firefighters will come bring and install one. Call is 804-646-1526.