Safety teams check smoke detectors in homes

A Tampa house fire claims a fourth life. Romello Jackson, 8, passed away Wednesday at Tampa General Hospital.

He was inside an East Paris Street home Tuesday morning when a fire broke out, killing his grandmother, 61-year-old Sheryl James, 8-year-old Reshard Ashley and 3-year-old Emjay Jackson.

One of the toughest parts about what happened at this home, fire officials say, is that it could have been prevented.

The home didn't have smoke detectors. The family had no warning.

While neighbors are coping with the loss, they're also takings steps to prevent it from ever happening again.

Wednesday afternoon, members of the Red Cross and fire departments in Tampa and Hillsborough County hit the pavement in a fire safety effort. In a matter of hours, they installed 171 smoke detectors in 61 homes.

"We are going to go around door-to-door making sure everyone has the opportunity to have this very basic life safety device," said Tampa Fire Inspector Tom Miller. "Had the individuals where this tragedy occurred had at least one smoke detector, they may have been alive today and I think that is the message we want to get out there."

Some homes were fully-equipped with working smoke detectors. But, even some with the devices installed weren't as protected as they thought. Inspectors found a few that would not have made a sound in the event of a fire.

Reginald Harris' home was one of them.

"It's scary," he said. "I've got babies in the house that I do everything I can to protect."

"We had one a long time ago and I think it went out," said Denise Jones. "My mama, she's not moving around too good, so that's good."

Teams talked to families about fire exit plans and checked burglar bars on windows. The four fire victims were trapped inside Tuesday morning because theirs didn't have a quick release system.

Officials hope a few moments of preparation now will save lives when seconds count.

"I know it was a tragedy that took place, but at least something good is coming of it," Miller said.

If you need help installing smoke detectors, members of the Tampa and Hillsborough County fire departments will come to you.

Tampa residents can call the Tampa Fire Marshal's Office at (813) 274-7000 and Hillsborough County residents outside the city limits can contact Hillsborough County Fire Rescue at (813) 272-6600.