Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, Baltimore Fire Chief James Clack, Washington, D.C. Fire Chief Dennis Rubin, and other fire organization leaders recently joined U.S. Fire Administrator Greg Cade to ask all residents of this nation to install, maintain, and test their smoke alarms, according to a press release from the U.S. Fire Administration. This national effort is a result of one of the deadliest holiday seasons in recent memory and several significant fires in the first days of 2009. Since Thanksgiving 2008, there have been more than 158 fatal fires in the United States resulting in over 200 fire fatalities.

“The 2008 holiday season and the start of 2009 may be recorded as one of the deadliest for residential fires in recent memory of the fire service,” said Cade. “Not only have there been a significant number of preventable fires, but the occurrences of multiple fatalities resulting from these fires are simply unacceptable within our nation. There should be a smoke alarm protecting every person in this nation today, particularly as we sleep.”

Here are some of the recent multiple fatality fires reported between Christmas Eve and January 7:
  • Four children died in a Christmas Eve house fire in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. Officials are unsure if the smoke alarms worked.
  • A house fire that resulted from the use of gasoline to fuel a kerosene heater killed four adults and three children in southwest Philadelphia the day after Christmas. The home had no working smoke alarms.
  • A young couple in Baltimore died in a fire above a grocery store. Investigators found no working smoke alarms in the building.
  • In Washington, D.C. on New Year’s Day, six individuals died in a house fire on Jackson Street, Northeast. While the cause was listed as accidental/electrical, officials are not sure smoke alarms worked properly.
  • Eight people, including four children, died in a residential fire in Richland, New York. The cause is still under investigation, however officials believe the fire may have been caused by a wood stove. The home had no working smoke alarms.

    . Smoke alarms are a very important means of preventing home fire fatalities by providing an early warning signal so occupants can escape. Smoke alarms should be tested once a month and their batteries replaced annually or as indicated by the manufacturer's instructions.

    . For additional information about smoke alarms, visit