Smoke detectors not working inside William Bell Apartments where fire left 2 dead

After further investigation, officials found four smoke detectors inside the apartment building where a fire killed two children.
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 9:43 PM CST|Updated: 22 hours ago
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - After further investigation, officials found four smoke detectors inside the apartment building where a fire killed two children and left six other people in the hospital, but none of them had working batteries.

The latest information is crucial, as it can lead to why the family could not get out on time.

According to one neighbor, her home does not contain any smoke detectors. Another neighbor said, however, that her home does have them.

“We asked everybody in their house to go in there and set them off. Just let us hear them to see who’s got them and who does not,” Ernestine Pope said.

Neighbor James Barnett woke up to loud screams. Outside his front door a dad was crying for help. His four children and wife were inside a fuming house.

“It flamed up,” said Barnett. “As soon as it flamed up all the lights cut off, but luckily, we were knocking on doors to tell everybody to get out. They jumped through the windows to get down.”

Barnett tells WLOX he immediately tried to help and called 911. According to Gulfport Fire Department, firefighters arrived at the scene 8 minutes later. For Barnett, the wait felt longer.

“It seemed like it was taking them at least 20-30 minutes for them to come. Once they came, he ended up telling them the situation. Asking for an ambulance, they were asking, ‘what’s going on? What’s wrong?’ By that time, he ended up telling them, ‘I need you to save my family,’” Barnett said.

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the fire that killed an infant born just days ago and a 6-year-old.

The surviving family members are in the hospital. One child has been flown to New Orleans in critical condition but is showing signs of improvement.

Pope says she and her neighbors are checking smoke detectors in their homes to make sure they are working in case of an emergency.

“They said some of them have them around here not working. I’m sure if the alarm went off somebody would hear it, but I got two new ones. I got a fire extinguisher,” Pope said.

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