KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Here's a frightening fact that may surprise you: so far this year in Tennessee, 35 people have died in fires according to the state fire marshal.
But in Kingsport, the fire department is celebrating six years without a fatal fire. We checked and firefighters say there's more than one reason why they're seeing this success.
A firefighter's job is to save homes and lives. In Kingsport firefighters are marking a milestone -- six years without a fire death in city limits.
Barry Brickey with the Kingsport Fire Department says there's no simple answer as to why, but one factor is having more fire stations. "Our newest station, Fire Station 8, actually cut our response time in that area by half," he told us.
As we found out, an aggressive smoke alarm giveaway program is another contributing factor to success. "Since about 2005, we've given out almost 20,000 smoke alarms," added Brickey.
Brickey says while the fire department has been fortunate there's still work to be done. "Tomorrow we could have a multi-fatality [fire]," he said. "We hope that doesn't happen but it could happen at any time. So people just need to be prepared in their homes."
You might be asking yourself how other cities in our region stack up to that figure. We checked and in Bristol, Virginia there have been four fatal fires in the last six years. Over in Bristol, Tennessee, four people were also killed in fires over a six-year span. Iin Johnson City, 14 people have died in fires since 2006; seven of those killed happened in the last 15 months.
"Residents we've come across did not have smoke detectors or working smoke detectors," said Johnson City Assistant Fire Marshal Jonathan Fulmer.
Assistant Fire Marshal Fulmer adds firefighters are trying to solve this by handing out free smoke detectors. "Get more active in educating people on what they need and providing that for them is those smoke detectors," he said.
No matter where you live, in Virginia or Tennessee, fire departments in our region have programs passing out free smoke detectors.
The best advice is to call your local fire department if you have questions.