A nine-year-old Ottumwa girl is credited with helping save the lives of her mother and brother last month. Tori Smith woke up at 2 a.m. on April 17 to the beeping of a smoke alarm. Her father, Allen Smith, was not at home at the time. “She woke up to the smoke alarm, hollered for the family to get out and they did because of that,” Smith said. “Who knows what would’ve happened…the result possibly would’ve been a lot worse.”
Allen and Tori Smith attended a press conference in the Des Moines area Tuesday as State Fire Marshal Ray Reynolds talked about the importance of having working smoke detectors in homes. Reynolds said 22 lives have been saved by smoke detectors in Iowa since he took office in mid-March. Those 22 lives include Tori Smith, her mother and brother.
Tori’s dad is a former police chief in the town of Villisca. Allen Smith told reporters he’ll never forget the time he responded to a mobile home fire that claimed the lives of two children. “We had no way to get in the place. Fires are awful,” Smith said. “People think they can get right out (of fires), but it’s a whole different thing when it really happens.”
The Smith family lost their home in last month’s fire, but Allen credits the smoke alarm for sparing his wife and kids. Investigators believe an unattended candle started to fire. Tori, who attends Wilson Elementary School in Ottumwa, said two things actually got her out of bed on the morning of April 17. “The heat and the smoke detector,” Tori told reporters. She pulled up her sleeve to reveal a scar from a staple that fell from the ceiling and burnt her arm.
The Smiths are currently staying with relatives or spending nights at an Ottumwa Motel 8 – where Allen Smith is now employed.
Ottumwa Fire Marshal Mike Jones also attended Tuesday’s press conference in Clive and said everyone in his city should have a working smoke detector in their home. “We have a program in Ottumwa…if you can’t afford a smoke detector, we’ll make sure you have one. If you’re unable to install the smoke detector yourself, we will come out and install it for you,” Jones said. “We’re on a mission to make sure everyone in our city has a smoke detector in their house.” State Fire Marshal Reynolds says most Iowa cities have similar programs in place.
So far in 2010, nine Iowans have died in structure fires. At least five of those deaths occurred in a home without a working smoke detector.