Gulfport Fire Department safety program in high gear after deadly fire

The Gulfport Fire Department’s smoke detector installation program has been going on since 2015.
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 6:06 PM CST
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The day after a deadly fire at the William Bell Apartments in Gulfport, Gulfport firefighters are doing what they can to keep something like this from happening again.

So, their arrival at a Gulfport home Thursday afternoon was not an emergency call. In fact, it might have prevented one.

“This is the easiest way to save lives is to put smoke detectors in your home,” said Gulfport Fire Chief Billy Kelley.

The Gulfport Fire Department’s smoke detector installation program has been going on since 2015. Thursday was its first installation since the fire at William Bell Apartments that killed two young children.

They’d rather do this, than deal with a tragedy later. Because it’s been hard on everyone.

“It’s been really tough on the team,” Kelley said. “We had a CISD (Critical Incident Stress Management) team that came in yesterday and sat with our guys’s tough, it’s real tough.”

Kelley hopes it can be a lesson in preparation.

“I pray for that family, and I pray for our team,” he said. “Check your smoke detectors. One life lost is too many.”

The program has received a big boost with a $25,000 grant from Home Depot, which allows the department to install, provide and maintenance equipment to anyone, regardless of income.

In addition, the fire department will do a safety check and provide instruction on how to use the equipment.

A working smoke detector could have prevented Wednesday morning’s tragedy.

“Being that it was 3 in the morning, and everybody was sleeping, once that fire gets so hot, those toxic fumes go down and start banking down in that residence and that could cause death quick,” Kelley said.

Kelley wants more calls like the one on Thursday, rather than the one on Wednesday.

“We just hope that people will keep calling us,” Kelley said. “Call us down here at Central Fire Station and we’ll set up an appointment and come out and put those detectors in. You know, just give us a call.”

Kelley added that in the last three years, the department has installed detectors in 600 homes.

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