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Eatonville Receives 600 Free Smoke Detectors

10/7/2002

TALLAHASSEE - The City of Eatonville will receive a special package today -- 600 smoke detectors that local firefighters will be able to install for free in at-risk homes. The delivery kicks off Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 6-12, in Florida.

The smoke alarm give-away is being coordinated by the State Fire Marshal's office in partnership with the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), Home Depot, First Floridian Auto and Home Insurance Company and USAA. The give-away is part of a statewide effort to increase the number of working smoke alarms in Florida homes, said Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher.

"At least half of all fire-related deaths can be prevented by a smoke detector," Gallagher said. "Our goal is to equip every Florida home with these life-saving devices."

Gallagher will be on hand to help deliver the detectors along with Leslie Chapman-Henderson, director of FLASH; Nancy Bailey, chief executive officer of First Floridian; and Toni Harrison, on behalf of USAA.

In 2001, fires killed 159 Floridians, including three firefighters, and injured 617 people. Of the nearly 7,000 fires to which the State Fire Marshal's Office responded, 74 percent of the structures had no smoke detector.

With the needs of poor and rural communities in mind, the State Fire Marshal's office is focusing its efforts during Fire Prevention Week on establishing ongoing public-private partnerships to distribute smoke detectors in Florida communities, beginning this year with the City of Eatonville and Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

The locations were selected based on the number of fire-related deaths and injuries in these areas, economic need and the willingness of the fire departments to install the smoke detectors.

"We hope that the communities will not only benefit from the donations, but also continue to identify ways to bring smoke detectors to low-income homeowners," said FLASH Director Leslie Chapman-Henderson.

Eatonville, located just north of Orlando, is the oldest surviving incorporated African-American municipality in the United States. Each year the city hosts the Zora Neale Hurston Festival, honoring its famous native daughter whose writing included many references to her hometown.

Unfortunately, said Eatonville Fire Chief Bill Griffin, the historical homes - built of wood decades before modern fire codes were established - are particularly susceptible to fire. He said the Progressive Firefighters Association of Central Florida will help distribute and install the smoke detectors in Eatonville.

"It will be a door-to-door, house-to-house campaign," he said. "With all of us working on it, we can have a positive impact."

Eatonville-area residents who need a smoke detector should contact the Eatonville Fire Department at 407-623-1201.

On the department's web site at www.fldfs.com are a video news release offering home fire safety tips as well as a link to tips that elementary school educators are encouraged to use in their classrooms.

Fire Prevention Week will culminate on Saturday, Oct. 12, with a memorial to the three Florida firefighters who died last year in the line of duty. The 8:30 a.m. memorial service will be held at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala.

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