SBFD installs free fire alarms in neighborhood where an 88-year-old died in house fire

NOW: SBFD installs free fire alarms in neighborhood where an 88-year-old died in house fire


SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- The investigation continues after an 88-year-old woman died in house fire in the Harter Heights neighborhood last week.

As metro homicide continues to look into the case, the South Bend Fire Department is took action to help prevent future tragedies by handing out free fire and carbon monoxide detectors Friday.

With this tragedy still on the minds of those in the neighborhood, many are thankful for the fire department’s prevention efforts.

The fire started in the back of a utility room in claiming the life of 88-year-old Phyllis Swihart.

Her 58 year old husband tells ABC57 he was out at the store when it all happened and when he got home it was already too late.

There’s been no ruling on what started the fire and the investigation is still ongoing but now the neighborhood is on high alert.

“It was disturbing,” Jackie Harms said, who lives in the neighborhood. “We all felt pretty bad and it puts you on edge, makes you aware.”

The South Bend Fire Department is using that awareness to talk about fire prevention and with a wagon full of fire alarms, five teams from the department knocked on 150 doors Friday to install free fire alarms.

Each house they knocked on Friday could have up to three combination fire and carbon monoxide detectors installed.

“I definitely appreciate it you know everyone needs it especially with the fire that happened down the street which was a tragic loss,” Anthony Williams said, who had a fire and carbon monoxide detector installed.

South Bend Fire Captain Gerard Ellis said he recommends at least one detector on each floor of every home and one in each bedroom, if possible.

“The number one goal is, even if they have a working fire alarm, is to talk about what to do when that fire alarm goes off,” Ellis said. “So we want to get outside, we want to have more than one way to get out; we want to have an escape plan.”

The prevention efforts were well received by the Harter Heights neighborhood.

“To have them come out and do something like this… it’s really appreciated, it just helps the whole situation,” Harms said.


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