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Shenandoah fires inspire free smoke alarm campaign

A series of suspicious fires in one part of Schuylkill County has fire officials taking action, making the community safer with fire prevention efforts.

SHENANDOAH, Pa. — Volunteers from the Red Cross are checking smoke alarms in homes throughout Shenandoah.

Recently, the Shenandoah Police and Fire departments have been investigating a series of fires in vacant houses.

From the outskirts of Shenandoah on Furnace Street to downtown on South Grant Street, most of the fires brought crews out in the middle of the night.

At least three of the fires have been ruled arson.

"We've had a lot of fires here in town. It's been challenging, and it's also been scary with the recent arson fires we've had in the borough. It's always challenging, and it's scary for our firemen that if something happens, if they get hurt, or even somebody else gets hurt from a neighboring house," said Shenandoah Fire Chief Rick Examitas.

To help with fire prevention, the volunteer firefighters at Columbia House Number One are teaming up with the Red Cross to install free smoke alarms.

So far, they've done installations in more than 20 homes throughout Shenandoah.

"We feel from a home fire, the only thing the family should have to worry about is replacing stuff. It's much easier to replace things than it is to replace a member of your family. So the goal of this program is to focus on keeping the people safe," said Peter Brown, Schuylkill Red Cross executive director, .

The Mackalonis family took advantage of the free smoke alarms because of the recent fires in the borough.

"All the arsons that's going around in town, you just never know what's going to be going on. And so this is just extra protection in here because we have an old empty house behind us," said Cathy Mackalonis.

"We've had fires here in town where smoke detectors actually saved people to get out of the house. And that's really what's concerning, and that's what they're made to be. It's for alertness," Chief Examitas said.

"They should have working smoke detectors and also have a family plan, so you already have an escape route. You have a place outside where you're going to meet. The combination of those two things can decrease the risk of death or injury by 50%," Brown explained.

"If they're for free, go get it! Save your life, save other lives, because there's a lot of fires around here, and you can save your life with the smoke detector. Cause a lot of people can't afford it around here," said Mackalonis.

Click here to learn how to get free smoke alarms in your home.

As for the arson investigation in Shenandoah, the fire chief says investigators are working to figure out who is setting the fires. 

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