After deadly Lansdowne house fire, firefighters hand out smoke detectors

In the wake of a Nov. 9 Lansdowne house fire that left two dead, two fire departments held an “After the Fire Walk” on Sunday to discuss fire safety and hand out smoke alarms.

“Any time we have a big incident like a house fire like that in the community, we want to … spread the word about fire safety,” Michael Sparks, a spokesman for Lansdowne Volunteer Fire Department, said.

Sparks said 14 to 15 people, from the Lansdowne station and Baltimore County Station 5 in Halethorpe, knocked on doors along Ryerson Circle, the street where a house caught fire the morning of Nov. 9. Firefighters handed out pamphlets on fire safety and gave out eight smoke detectors, Sparks said.

The companies Dominion Electric and Lansdowne Paint and Hardware donated 16 smoke detectors and 24 nine-volt batteries, Sparks said, adding that the remaining smoke detectors are at the Lansdowne station. He encouraged community members to call the station if they need one.

The Nov. 9 fire took place in the 3200 block of Ryerson Circle. Seventeen fire and medic units responded to the fire, the county fire service said.

A husband and wife were rescued from the house, both critically injured.

Baltimore County’s police and fire departments announced later that day that Susan Jeanne Fox Shipley, 67, died. Her husband, Russell Shipley, 71, was transported to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center and died of his injuries Monday night.

The fire was accidental and caused by smoking materials, the county said in a press release. County public safety spokeswoman Elise Armacost said the home had a smoke detector, but it was not hard-wired and did not have a battery and so it did not sound.

Sparks said that while such tragedies are rare, they become more likely as winter approaches and people turn on their furnaces.

Many homes have smoke alarms but the batteries are dead or removed, Sparks said. He encouraged people to check their smoke alarms to make sure the batteries are working.

Three out of five fire deaths take place in homes with no working smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association, and the death rate in homes without working alarms is double that of homes with them. The most common reason an alarm did not sound, the organization said, was because people had disconnected the alarm or battery; the second most common reason was a dead battery.

Armacost said she did not immediately know if the Ryerson Court home that caught fire had working smoke alarms.

Sparks said most people in Ryerson Court were receptive to the door-knocking campaign, using it as an opportunity to learn more about fire safety.

“A lot of people don’t know what’s supposed to happen or what they’re supposed to do,” Sparks said. “We have safety classes for kids, but we don’t get to have those talks with adults like we want.”

Armacost said that in the days after a fatal fire, officials often do similar walks to educate the public.

“The most teachable moments are often when something has just happened,” she said.

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