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Tragic deaths are reminder of fire safety

The investigation is continuing into the New Year’s Day fatal Warren fire in which a mother and her young son perished.

Right now, investigators are calling the cause “undetermined,” but an in-depth report released by the Ohio Fire Marshal already indicates that careless use of smoking materials are a possible cause.

Cassandra Gray, 34, and her 5-year-old son Otto Gray, died from smoke inhalation, according to the Trumbull County coroner.

“The careless use of smoking materials cannot be eliminated as a possible ignition source for this incident,” assistant state fire Marshal Todd Stitt said in his report released this week regarding the fatal fire at 2853 Woodland St. NE.

That’s troubling, because everyone knows — or should know — that smoking materials always must be disposed of properly.

But perhaps even more troubling is the absence of smoke detectors in the home, according to the incident report. The lack of such devices meant the residents were not alerted and, therefore, lost the critical moments that might have allowed them to escape.

According to details released in the fire Marshal report, Lee Gray, Cassandra Gray’s husband, who had fallen asleep on the couch downstairs, discovered the fire. He told investigators he went upstairs and alerted his wife and son, before returning downstairs to attempt to extinguish the blaze with a fire extinguisher. The extinguisher failed, and the blaze quickly grew. He escaped with his other young son.

These devastating, unnecessary deaths are a grim reminder of the importance of being prepared.

First and foremost, we all must ensure we have working smoke detectors on all levels of our homes. We also must test those smoke detectors (as well as carbon monoxide detectors) regularly. Most experts recommend changing smoke detector batteries at least twice a year, usually when the time changes in the spring and fall.

The odds of escaping a fire are increased exponentially if we are alerted to it quickly. Smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors can give us the head start we need to survive fires in our homes. Statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration make detectors’ value brutally clear. If you don’t have working smoke detectors in your home, now is the time to go get one or more.

Fire extinguishers also are good to have, but they should not provide a false sense of security. Home fire extinguishers also must be checked regularly, but more importantly, never, ever underestimate the power of a fire. If your home catches fire, don’t spend time trying to extinguish the quickly growing flames. It’s more important that you and your family get out first and call 9-1-1.

It’s also recommended that families prepare an escape plan.

The deaths of this young Trumbull County mother and her child are tragic.

Let’s learn from them and not let their deaths be in vain.

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