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Wichita fire officials: Smoke alarms can mean difference between life, death

Wichita firefighters consult following an early morning fire at 1343 S. Water on Nov. 12, 2014.
Wichita firefighters consult following an early morning fire at 1343 S. Water on Nov. 12, 2014. File photo

It was the kind of scenario that gives firefighters nightmares: A house fire early in the morning with someone trapped.

When firefighters arrived at 1343 S. Water before dawn last Nov. 12, a mother and her young son were in the front yard. Smoke poured from the second floor of the house.

“She’s bleeding, she’s screaming, she’s pointing up towards the second floor,” Wichita Fire Marshal Brad Crisp said of the mother in a video about the fire.

Her older son, Jaden Nunn, was trapped inside. A rescue team was able to get to Jaden and take him outside, but he couldn’t be saved.

Jaden was 9 when he died. There was no working smoke detector in the rental house where they lived.

In a public service announcement released Friday, Audrey Cordray says she believes her older son would still be alive if they’d had a working smoke alarm in their second-story apartment.

The video is part of local observances of Fire Prevention Week, which starts Monday and has the motto “Hear the Beep where you Sleep.”

Fire officials want a working smoke detector on each floor of a dwelling, Crisp said. Many homes now being built have a smoke detector in each bedroom.

Smoke detectors buy time for people to escape from a burning structure. By the time Cordray was awakened by the fire on Nov. 12, intense heat and black smoke filled the dwelling. She had her 3-year-old son with her as she crawled out a window and she thought Jaden was right behind them.

He wasn’t.

Cordray and her surviving son spent months in the hospital before returning home, Crisp said.

The fire department has given out more than 1,000 free smoke alarms since 2011 in an attempt to save lives. People can call 316-268-4441 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to request a smoke alarm or new batteries or to simply have their existing alarm tested, Crisp said.

“When there is an emergency, and specifically a fire emergency, every second counts,” Fire Chief Ron Blackwell said in a statement. “A working smoke alarm may give you those precious few seconds you need to survive.”

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.

Kansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service

When: 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4

Where: 1300 S. Broadway

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