Fort Smith Home Damaged By Fire, Officials Say No Smoke Detectors In Home

A house fire in Fort Smith Monday morning (Oct. 14) displaces seven people including three children and a pregnant woman.

Officials said the electrical fire began in the laundry room of the home on South P Street. The fire damaged the laundry room and the children’s bedroom.

Danielle Breshers, who was living in the home, said the youngest child, a 4-year-old boy, woke everyone up by yelling that he could smell smoke. When they went to investigate the smoke, they found the laundry room “engulfed” in flames.

“The windows were breaking, they were shattering, busting out,” said Breshers. “The crackling of the fire was everywhere. There was black smoke everywhere. There was orange flames everywhere. It was terrifying.”

The residents were renting the home they have lived in since August. They moved to Arkansas after a fire destroyed their Tulsa home earlier this year.

Breshers said there were no smoke detectors in the home when they moved in.

“The firefighter said that if we wouldn’t have woke up, then all of us would’ve been dead,” she said.

Breshers’ landlord, Gioi Nguyen, told 5NEWS he last checked the smoke detectors in the home in late April. He said “sometimes people move in and take [the smoke detectors] out.”

Rob Champion lives two doors down from where the fire occurred said Nguyen is also his landlord. Champion said he’s lived in his home for three months, there are no smoke detectors in his home and, to his knowledge, Nguyen has never been by to check on the smoke detectors.

“(Nguyen) just said that he’s going to get us a couple of smoke detectors to put in the house,” Champion told 5NEWS following the fire.

According to Battalion Chief Phil Christensen with the Fort Smith Fire Department, it is the landlord’s responsibility to install and maintain smoke detectors in their rental properties.

Christensen said if a rental property does not have working smoke detectors and requests to the landlord to do so have gone unanswered, renters should contact the Fire Marshal. In the meantime, he encourages renters to install the “life-saving” tool themselves.

“Please, just run down to the hardware store, pick one up and install it yourself if you have to, and work it out with your landlord and see if they can reimburse you for it,” said Christensen.

Breshers said they have been contacted by the Red Cross and will be staying in a hotel until they can find somewhere else to live.

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