City of Sedalia officials and the Sedalia Fire Department were the speakers at the Sedalia Landlord Association’s monthly meeting where they spoke about fire safety.
The Sedalia Landlord Association hosted its monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Community of Christ Church basement where the mayor, city councilmen, and the deputy fire chief were in attendance.
After a recent influx in residential fires, the city and SFD have been increasing their efforts to inform residents about public safety. The recent increase is especially concerning because the fire department’s busy season has not even started yet, according to Deputy Fire Chief Matt Irwin.
“The busy season is coming and I hate to say that but November and December with Christmas lights, Christmas trees, and basically it being so cold…Our busy season is coming,” Irwin said. “To be quite honest we’re worried and that’s why we’re pushing smoke detectors so hard now is because we’re worried that this uptake is going to continue.”
Irwin explained the city had 26 residential fires last year and the city has already had 37 in 2019 with a month and a half to go. A common denominator in the recent fires has been the structures have not had working smoke detectors.
Smoke detectors can make a big difference, according to Irwin. Had the recent fire on East Seventh Street happened in the middle of the night, Irwin was “confident” it would have been a “multiple fatality fire.” The only fatalities the department has seen in the recent fires have been one dog and three fish who were rescued but later died from shock.
Irwin and the city have been pushing the SFD’s program that offers a free smoke detector per residence in city limits through a grant. This year the department has switched to giving out 10-year smoke detectors instead of battery-operated ones in the hopes of keeping people from taking them down once the battery runs out. They also give out batteries for battery-operated ones. Irwin said they have installed four since Monday and given away 15 in total. The department will install the detectors and change the batteries in existing smoke detectors.
“My crews are there 24 hours a day, seven days a week and unless we’re out on a fire or a medical call the citizens of Sedalia are our priority,” he said. “So if it’s 2 in the morning and they need a battery we’ll go put a battery in. I’ve done it, I’ve done it myself.”
The department has also seen space heaters overloading circuits in the wall. Irwin said space heaters are also being plugged into 99-cent, brown extension cords which can not handle the heaters: “They're the 99 cent fire is what they are.” Irwin and Mayor John Kehde both said space heaters should not be used for primary heating sources in a house.
Kehde, Ward 1 Councilman Jeff Leeman and Ward 2 Councilman Andrew Dawson also addressed the group, emphasizing the importance of taking advantage of the program.
“I’m in the first ward and I’d be glad to come by the station and get some (smoke detectors),” Leeman said. “If somebody needs one I’d be more than happy to put it in myself for them.”
The speakers were asked if there was any correlation between the recent fires and any particular landlord to which Kehde replied “yes.” The speakers acknowledged the attendees at the association's meeting were the people who were probably doing everything right, but they hoped those members could talk to other landlords and have a positive influence.
“I feel this is a good group,” Kehde said. “You can exert peer pressure on the other property owners, other landlords, to help with this communication. We’re putting lives in jeopardy here. Not only the tenants, but the firemen’s.”
“I think Andrew and I came tonight just to emphasize the seriousness of what’s going on and we’ve been very close,” Leeman added. “We’ve been lucky and we just want to emphasize if you have any contact with other landlords please encourage them to take advantage of this. Like them or not it’s people's lives we’re dealing with, that’s why we’re here.”
Kehde said the city wants to be part of the solution in solving the issues that have been causing the fires.
“We want you to have trust in us and we want to have trust in you,” he said. “If you sense that you're having a problem with a tenant, talk to us about it. If they don't have their utilities, they don't have gas, come and talk to us and we’ll help deal with it. Number one we don’t want a loss of life and we’re willing to work with you on these things.”