ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — An elderly woman died after a fire in her Rockford home over the weekend.
First responders were called to the home on N. Central Avenue, near School Street, around 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Crews found the woman not breathing in her bedroom. She was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Firefighters said that there were no active smoke detectors inside the house. They said that they can be the difference between life and death.
Accidental fires happen, but the results can be minimized with precaution.
“Very tragic, and I’m sorry that they went through what they went through,” said Priscila, a neighbor. “I wish this could’ve been prevented.”
Firefighters said that the fire detectors inside the home were not working when the fire started.
“It became apparent during this fire that early notification was an issue, so we want to make sure that people are, have good functioning smoke detectors in their house,” said Michael Schnaper, arson investigator with the Rockford Fire Department. “So, this was an example that obviously the more time you can get, the better.”
That starts with working smoke detectors. Rockford Fire has emphasized the 10-year lithium battery requirement in detectors.
They detect what residents cannot, including smoke. That is the cause of death two-thirds of the time, according to the department.
“Doesn’t necessarily make a noise, but you can be overcome by it very quickly. One of the substances in smoke in a fire is carbon monoxide, and that’s tasteless, odorless, all that kind of stuff,” Schnaper said. “Not to mention you don’t know what’s masking the smell of anything. You could be congested or any number of things that inhibit your ability to notice a fire.”
Priscila said that she makes sure to check her detectors, knowing the state of the houses in the neighborhood.
“Well, the area here, the houses are a lot older, so a lot of times you don’t put any thought into updating or checking your smoke detectors, your carbon monoxide detectors, you know, cost and what not,” she said.
The Rockford Fire Department goes around the city to make sure that households have working detectors when incidents like this happen.
“We are not here to, you know, to arrest anybody or fine anybody or anything like that,” Schnaper said. “We are just going out to provide smoke detectors and making sure people are safe, because early detection not only keeps the people living in the houses that have smoke detectors safe, but it keeps firefighters safer because earlier detection means smaller fires, smaller fires easier to put out.”
Rockford Fire will be going door-to-door on April 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to make sure that homes are meeting the requirement in order to stay safe.