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Wichita fire death leads to $1,435 in donations to purchase smoke alarms

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, May 14, 2014, at 5:11 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, May 14, 2014, at 8:31 p.m.

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Cliff Davis would have turned 42 on Friday.

He died from a fire Jan. 18 at his Wichita duplex on West Zimmerly.

The fire broke out early that Saturday while Davis slept. His rented residence didn’t have smoke alarms.

If it had, family and friends say, Davis might be alive and celebrating his birthday.

But they used the tragedy to help others.

At a news conference Friday morning at City Hall, they plan to present two checks totaling $1,435 to the Wichita Fire Department to purchase alarms for residents who don’t have money to buy their own.

That’s enough to buy more than 140 smoke alarms. The fire department can use its discount to get the alarms for $10 each, Capt. Stuart Bevis said.

“Cliff’s probably happy we’re doing this,” said Tylee Davis, Cliff’s sister.

Almost immediately after the fire, she set up a fund at Emprise Bank for donations. The amount grew to $1,179.

Another $256 was raised by South High School student Alex Barton, who considered Cliff Davis like an uncle. At her school this spring, she sold yellow bracelets with the message “Smoke Detectors Save Lives” for $1 each.

Tylee Davis will present one check and Barton the other to Bevis.

“This is going to be a huge help with our supply,” Bevis said. “We have great sponsors, but we can only go to the well so often. This will further our reach.”

Businesses have donated to the fire department’s ongoing fund for smoke alarms, he said.

Since September, the department has installed about 300 alarms, Bevis said.

“We’ve spent numerous staff hours installing smoke alarms throughout the city for people in need, he said.

Bevis said state and city laws require all residences to have smoke alarms. City code requires alarms to be hard wired with a battery backup.

Enforcing the code is difficult because there’s not enough manpower to go around checking every residence.

“The only way we can enforce it is when we find ourselves in an emergency inside someone’s home,” Bevis said.

By the time that happens, he said, “sometimes it’s too late.”

“Just telling people they need to have the smoke alarms hasn’t been enough,” Bevis said. “We’re trying to help people through the process to get one.”

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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