Firefighters check smoke alarms at apartment complex where fire killed three children

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ST. LOUIS - More than a week after a fire claimed the lives of three young children, St. Louis firefighters are taking steps to ensure it never happens again.

“We’re here today with boots on the ground to make a difference,” St. Louis Fire Captain Leon Whitener said.

About two dozen firefighters went door-to-door at the Clinton-Peabody Apartment Complex to see if the smoke detectors were in working condition and, if not, install new ones.

“It’s a good thing, so this won’t happen again,” said Rhonda Williams, a Clinton-Peabody resident.

Firefighters were only feet away from the huge memorial to the three children who died as the result of the October 20 fire. Four-year-old Heaven, 5-year-old Dream, and 6-month-old Damarion Coleman all died. Authorities said they were left home alone.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t seem the smoke alarms were working,” Capt. Whitener said.

He said the alarms in the fatal fire had batteries but didn’t sound. Were the batteries dead or did the devices malfunction? That’s under investigation.

Firefighters sometimes learn that residents will remove batteries to power other items.

“When someone’s removing a 9-volt battery from the smoke alarm to put it in a toy, what they’re sacrificing is their safety,” Whitener said.

Firefighters said smoke alarms warn residents of danger in 80 percent of all fires.

“I think it’s very important if smoke or anything—even if you’re cooking, any little smoke—you need to know what’s going on,” Williams said.

The loss of life is devastating for families. Firefighters feel that grief and carry it back to the firehouse where counselors may be called in to help.

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