Officials alarmed at the high number of fire deaths; urge residents to check smoke detectors

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Eleven people in Los Angeles have died in house fires in 2014. That is usually the number of deaths that happen halfway through the year.

"The residential fire deaths to date are alarming to us,” said interim L.A. Fire Chief James Featherstone. “Residential fire deaths in this city, in this country, are a preventable death.”

He says each of the deaths this year involved homes with no functioning smoke alarms.

The increase has fire officials alarmed. So on Friday they gathered to remind all Southern California residents to check their smoke detectors this weekend and change the batteries. Each year the reminder comes on the same weekend people turn the clocks forward for daylight saving time. This year, the call is more urgent.

"We know smoke alarms save lives," Featherstone said.

LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby says at a minimum, they recommend having smoke detectors in hallways leading to bedrooms. For extra security, there should also be smoke detectors inside each bedroom.

Fire officials were on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall as they announced a public awareness campaign called: "Fire Burns. Smoke Kills." 

"Smoke is a silent killer," Chief Featherstone said. "A couple of quick breaths of toxic smoke, and you are pretty much incapacitated. Long before the fire burns someone, the smoke overcomes them."

L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge reiterated the message while holding a smoke detector as a prop.

"It’s real simple. Something like this saves lives. Get a smoke detector. Any chance you have to beat the devil is important, and the devil is fire," he said.

The Los Angeles Fire Department has been criticized for slow response times. Chief Featherstone was asked if this played a role in any of the recent fire deaths.

"Not at this time," he answered.

This week a long awaited independent review was released recommending sweeping changes to improve the fire department.

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