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Lee family agrees smoke detectors save lives

Shirley Burnham / The Prentiss Headlight—Ryan, Richard, Kristi and Hanna Lee stand in front of what is left of their home, a pile of metal for junk. Hanna holds a smoke detector like one that most likely saved their lives. 

Shirley Burnham / The Prentiss Headlight—Ryan, Richard, Kristi and Hanna Lee stand in front of what is left of their home, a pile of metal for junk. Hanna holds a smoke detector like one that most likely saved their lives.

Thirteen-year old Ryan Lee was the only one interested enough to watch all of the Super Bowl that Sunday night as the rest of the family prepared for bed. His younger sister Hanna, bored with the game, went to her room and read her Bible (the preacher had challenged them to read it through this year) while mom Kristi and dad Richard were ready to get a good night’s rest before a busy work day.

It sounds like the Lee family experienced a typical Sunday night until the early morning hours of Monday arrived with the shrill sound of the smoke detector in the living room. Richard, who had awakened only a few minutes earlier wondering if the popping sound he heard was due to the wind, went to investigate and found the room filling with smoke. He roused his sleeping family and headed them out of the house. Kristi grabbed her purse and keys in passing them but forgot her glasses. Once outside she dialed 911 as the frightened family backed away from the home where they had spent the last fifteen years and watched helplessly as smoke billowed from the rooftop whirlybirds and the structure became engulfed in flames.

Shirley Burnham / The Prentiss Headlight—The Lee’s son Drew who lives in Hattiesburg now surveys the still smoking ruins of his childhood home after a fire devastated the structure.

Shirley Burnham / The Prentiss Headlight—The Lee’s son Drew who lives in Hattiesburg now surveys the still smoking ruins of his childhood home after a fire devastated the structure.

Placing smoke detectors in several rooms of their home most likely saved the lives of the Lee family. All their worldly possessions may have been lost but all family members were safe and as Kristi Lee states, “The rest was just things.”

Most fatal fires occur late at night or in early morning while you sleep. Every year house fires claim lives that may have been saved by the early warning of a smoke detector.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends placing smoke detectors in every occupied bedroom as well as on every floor including the basement and in the kitchen away from the stove (to prevent false alarms).

Replace smoke detector batteries at least once a year. A smoke detector annoyingly chirping means your battery needs replacing. Don’t ignore a chirping detector or, worse, turn it off. Do replace old detectors every ten years. “You do the things to prepare but you never really think you will have will have to use them,” states Kristi Lee. After their personal experience the Lees include these tips: “Make sure you have plenty of smoke detectors and check them regularly to be sure they all work. Talk to your family and have a plan of exit in case of a fire and don’t try to go back in to retrieve anything. Just be thankful if your family gets out unharmed,” states Kristi Lee. “The rest is just replaceable stuff.”

“When it was obvious they couldn’t save the house, fire fighters concentrated on saving everything around it and we are grateful to them for their efforts,” says Richard Lee. “The outpouring of the generosity of everyone has overwhelmed us, and we are grateful for the goodness of hearts of the community, friends and strangers.