A Shropshire fire chief's grim prediction that the next death in a house fire would be an older woman living alone with a faulty smoke alarm came true within weeks of the tragic forecast.
A 61-year-old woman sadly died in a fire in her Market Drayton home where two smoke alarms were fitted - both with the batteries removed. It brought to seven the number of people who had died in house fires in the county in the past year.
It sparked off an unprecedented community awareness campaign launched by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service with the help of the local evening newspaper which launched Fire Safety Week after the number of fire deaths hit a 13-year high.
The Shropshire Star agreed to run a concentrated campaign throughout its news pages urging householders to pick up a free smoke alarm from one of its seven district offices spread across the county.
Front page headlines every day for a week reminded readers of the lifesaving urgency for every home to install at least one smoke alarm. Feature articles and the editor's column were filled with stories appealing for people to get an alarm for elderly relatives, friends and neighbours. News placards and posters broadcast the message in high streets throughout the county.
Firefighters turned out in force in market towns throughout the rural county to re-inforce the message. While the B&Q DIY chain agreed to join the campaign and offer discounts on smoke alarm sales to customers. BBC Radio Shropshire also broadcasted appeals.
The newspaper's publicity campaign was extended for another two weeks and smoke alarms were cleared from some of their rural district offices along with leaflets. In total almost 1,000 household smoke alarms targeted for elderly and vulnerable people were given away, hundreds more were bought from DIY shops and householders checked that the batteries in their existing smoke alarms were working.
"The Shropshire Star distributes to 75,000 people in our area and has a profile of sales to those groups we are trying to target. It has been a very successful campaign which we hope to repeat in future," said John Redmond, Deputy Chief Fire Officer.
"We are grateful for the fantastic support the Star has provided in delivering our message to support our ultimate aim of eliminating fire injuries and deaths from our communities."
It was Mr Redmond's original report on fire deaths which triggered the publicity campaign. In his report he had told the fire authority that the terrible tragedies of fire deaths in Shropshire could have been easily avoided if working smoke alarms had been fitted.
The successful campaign had led neighbours, families and friends checking that elderly and vulnerable people had smoke alarms fitted to hopefully avoid further tragedies, said Mr Redmond.
Shropshire Star editor Keith Harrison said: "If this campaign encourages just one person to fit and maintain a smoke alarm which ends up saving their life, it will have been worthwhile.
"Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service works tirelessly on delivering this message across the county and we were delighted to have been able to help them by putting it at the top of our news agenda.
Soon after the newspaper campaign began, the Star reported how the lives of two Shropshire pensioners were saved a few days later when their smoke alarms worked and alerted neighbours to a blaze.
For more information visit www.shropshirefire.gov.uk
Photo: A leaflet message to friends and family with John Redmond
Posted May 9th, 2012 at 0930 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org