GARLAND – After a fire took the lives of six people Saturday morning, city leaders and local emergency officials are encouraging the community to make sure they have working smoke detectors in their homes.
“Our town and community are mourning the loss of these citizens,” stated Mayor Winifred Murphy and town commissioners in a news release. “Please continue to pray and support the families and our community.”
In the early morning hours of Aug. 30, fire destroyed a single-wide mobile home with four adults and two children inside.
Dr. Carl Barr, Sampson Medical Examiner, recently released the names of all but one of the victims, all who died from carbon monoxide, he said.
They included a mother and her two children, Anita Shenelle Robinson, 33; Tashyia Shenelle Robinson, 9; and Andre Lamonte Smith, 10.
Other identified victims include James Earl Wilson, 62; and Johnnie Kent Newkirk, 34. The sixth victim has not been identified, but is believed to be that of Newkirk’s mother.
Dr. Barr said the sixth victim was also the final autopsy to be done, which will include the positive identification of the body.
The incident is under investigation by the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, the Sampson County Fire Marshal’s Office, the NC State Bureau of Investigation, and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“We thank all fire departments, EMS, law enforcement, and community members who responded to the scene,” Murphy said. “We are also thankful and appreciative for the outpouring of love from our many, many county and state friends.”
It’s unknown if a smoke detector was present before the fire, but officials are stressing the importance of having one that works.
The Garland Fire Department is offering assistance with the installation of smoke detectors in homes, if needed.
Garland Capt. Chris Register said Kidde, a manufacture of safety products, wants to donate smoke detectors.
“We don’t know how many we’re getting, but we hope that we have enough for the town and surrounding communities,” Register said.
Murphy and the town’s Board of Commissioners thanked the Garland Fire Department for providing assistance.
“I encourage everybody to develop a fire plan for their home and make sure they have detectors for their homes,” Murphy stressed.
Register said he’s been to some homes where no fire detector was present.
“Every time we come across them, we advise them to get detectors,” he said.
Eric Pope, captain of support services for the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, said he would hate for anyone to lose a family member for not having one.
“One of the most important features of a home is a smoke detector,” Pope said.
Ron Bass, director of Sampson County Emergency Management, feels the same way.
“Those smoke detectors are designed to have a loud noise,” Bass said. “I can’t stress enough the importance of having a smoke detector. They do save lives.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoke alarms should be installed in each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level. The organization stated that smoke alarms should be connected to go off at the same time.
NFPA also stated that two of three fire deaths occur in homes with no detectors or when alarms are not working.
For homeowners with smoke detectors, Bass advises them to check the batteries twice a year. He suggested at the beginning of Daylight Saving Time in March and at DST’s end in November.
Garland residents who need a smoke detector or batteries, may contact Register at 910-590-4534 or Assistant Fire Chief Anthony Norris at 910-249-0471.
Bass said Sampson County residents may contact their local departments or emergency management at 910-592-8996.
“I’ll make every effort to make sure I can help,” Bass said about residents seeking the device. “Our staff will do everything we can to get them one.”