Metro-East News

June 8, 2014

Red Cross volunteers teach fire safety in East St. Louis

In an effort to raise awareness about fire safety, volunteers from the Red Cross went door-to-door in an area that has seen at least six fires in recent months.

And this was a welcomed event for Fire Chief Jason Blackmon.

He said the more information residents get about the importance of smoke detectors and the knowledge that they do save lives, the better it is. He is aware that some citizens still do not have working smoke detectors in their homes. But, he is hopeful that everyone will see how they make a difference and will get them for their homes.

If people didn't have working smoke detectors in their homes, "We took down their information and passed it along to the fire department. And if we can find donated ones, we give them to the them," said Nicole Hawkins, regional preparedness director with the Red Cross.

Hawkins said Red Cross volunteers also helped residents with their evacuation plans so they would know where to meet outside their home in case of a fire.

Teresa Lange, a preparedness specialist with the Red Cross, said the volunteers went to 350 homes after a training and orientation session.

"At 10:15, the volunteers went out to residents homes between the 4000 and 4600 block of Lincoln to Bushmore, where they had six home fires in January and February," Lange said.

"We know where homes have working smoke detectors, lives are saved. Two-thirds of the fatalities happen in homes where there are no working smoke detectors," she said.

For more information about fire safety, contact the Red Cross at 314-515-2800 or

Tito Gardner, one of the volunteers, said the group, which consisted of 25 volunteers, was well received by the residents.

"When we went to the homes, the residents told us they were going to check their smoke detectors and two people actually did it while we were there," Gardner said.

Kenyatta Leonard, president of the Urban League's Young Professionals of Metropolitan St. Louis, was a volunteer, too.

She said, "The Red Cross reached out to us to help with this event and we were very happy to do so.

"This event is right in line with our empowerment strategy -- health and quality of life," she said.

"It's not just about one person," Leonard said. "We never know when a fire will break out or where. Neighbors should make sure each individual is as safe as possible in his home."

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