An entire community suffers because of the death of the Rev. Samuel "Wayne" Bussey and his stepdaughters to a house fire March 23, the Rev. Alexander Ingram said.
By sponsoring a fire safety lesson Thursday night, the pastor of Second Mount Carmel Baptist Church, where Bussey was an associate pastor, hopes to help the community cope with the tragedy.
"This night is as much about healing as it is learning to protect ourselves and our families," Ingram said. "(Bussey) will be missed by his family, his church and his community. As a community, we are still grieving over his loss and the loss of his children," stepdaughters Antis'cia "Monique" Marshall, 13, and Eugenia "Gena" Marshall, 10.
Even usually stalwart firefighters were affected by the loss.
"As you can tell, I'm still shook up about it," Martinez Fire Department Battalion Chief Danny Kuhlmann said.
"I've got no problem pulling an adult out of a fire, but when I have to pull out a kid," Kuhlmann said, his words trailing off as he shook his head.
Kuhlmann, with several firefighters from North Columbia Fire and Rescue, discussed fire safety with a near-capacity crowd in the Appling church's reception hall.
An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 people die annually in house fires in the U.S., the highest rate of any industrialized nation in the world, Kuhlmann said. In Georgia, an average of 275 deaths from fire occur each year. Kuhlmann said 52 people, including 19 children, have died in Georgia this year.
"Many of those deaths could have been prevented by following a few safety precautions," he said.
Smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, an evacuation plan and community awareness are the most effective tools in preventing fire deaths, firefighters said.
Rescue responders handed out 25 free smoke detectors at the meeting. After they ran out, attendees signed a list if they wanted a free smoke detector.
The most important defense against a fire-related casualty is a working smoke detector, Kuhlmann said.
"Smoke is what kills and I assure you that is what took the Busseys," he said.
Seven out of 10 people die of smoke inhalation before they are ever touched by flames, he said.
North Columbia Capt. Robert Yahn spoke on the importance of developing and practicing an evacuation plan.
All families should discuss escape routes from every room of a home and pick a designated spot outside to meet, he said.
"There have been people who have died going back into a burning home, because they thought their children were still inside when they weren't," he said. "Once you're outside, stay outside."
North Columbia Chief Tom McFarland reiterated Yahn's point. "We'd much rather have a structure lost than to lose even one life."
Fire safety tips:
- Smoke detectors should be placed in every room of a home except bathrooms and the kitchen.
- Georgia Fire Safety Commissioner John Oxendine suggests changing the batteries in smoke detectors twice a year.
- If a smoke detector is mounted on a wall it should be 10 inches below the ceiling. If it is mounted on the ceiling, it should be 10 inches away from the wall. Smoke detectors should never be placed in corners.
- Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher and it should be kept in the kitchen, away from the oven.
- Fire extinguishers should be checked every six years for casing integrity.
- The outside of a home should be kept clear of limbs and debris. Not only can outside debris add fuel to a fire, it can act as an obstacle to firefighters trying to reach a home.
- Develop a fire escape route from every room in a home and practice it.
- Determine a place outside for family members to meet after leaving a burning building.
- Do not re-enter a burning building.
- If trapped inside a burning building, stay low to the ground for improved visibility and less heat.
- Make sure your house is numbered and the numbers are easily visible.
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