Smoke alarm installed by Red Cross and partners alert four Orange families to fire in basement
In the early morning hours of November 8, 2016, as the Milord family slept, a fire was quietly burning in the basement of their Ridge Street home in Orange, New Jersey. Just before 5:00 a.m., Madeleine and her brother Claude were awakened by the sound of a smoke alarm.
“We heard the ‘beep, beep, beep’ of the smoke alarm,” said Claude. “The house felt warm and I could smell smoke, but we saw no smoke or fire.”
Claude went room-to-room in the home searching for evidence of a fire, but found none. Making his way downstairs, Claude opened the basement door, which released a plume of smoke into the home.
“It’s in the basement! There’s a fire in the basement,” Claude yelled.
Claude and Madeline raced around the house, waking up their loved ones and helping them escape from the burning home. The family of 17, along with a friend staying with them for the night, ran from the house and took refuge in their cars. They called 911 to report the fire and watched as smoke poured out of the house they had called home for five years.
Everyone in the Milord family – from four-week-old Keisha to 88-year-old Dleudonne – survived the fire, thanks to free smoke alarms installed by the Red Cross and partners during a Home Fire Campaign event a year and a half earlier.
April 25, 2015 is a day that forever changed the lives of the Milord family. Answering a knock at their door, they greeted a team of volunteers from the Red Cross, the Orange Fire Department, and the Orange Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). The team was one of several who were spending a sunny Saturday afternoon going door-to-door to homes in Orange, offering free smoke alarms installations as part of the Home Fire Campaign.
The American Red Cross launched the Home Fire Campaign in New Jersey and across the country in October of 2014 to help reduce the number of home fire-related injuries and fatalities. As part of the multi-year campaign, the Red Cross is partnering with municipalities, fire departments and community organizations to install free smoke alarms in high fire-risk areas and help families be better prepared for home fires.
Since the launch of the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross and partners have canvassed more than 25,000 homes in 131 municipalities throughout the state, helped 7,200 families create a fire escape plan, and installed more than 17,000 free smoke alarms in homes like the Milords.
The Milords welcomed the Home Fire Campaign volunteers into their home. The volunteers helped the family create a fire escape plan and installed the smoke alarms that would save their lives.
“Fortunately, the Milord family was able to escape unharmed thanks to working smoke alarms,” said Ana Montero, CEO, American Red Cross New Jersey Region. “Smoke alarms save lives and through the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross and our community partners continue to help protect families from home fires.”
The day of the fire at the Milords home, Red Cross disaster responders met with the family to provide comfort and emergency assistance for temporary lodging, food and clothing.
“The Red Cross came right after the fire to help us find a place to stay,” Claude recalled. “They gave us some money for a hotel and food. We thank the Red Cross for all their help. Bless the Red Cross.”
“Without the Red Cross we would have had to stay on the street,” said Madeleine added.
Red Cross caseworkers helped the family develop a recovery plan and connected them with additional resources to help them get back on their feet.
The Milord family has settled into their new home in East Orange. In early March, Chief Andre Williams of the East Orange Fire Department, City of Orange Township Fire Director Kenneth Douglas, and Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Muraad Abdus-Salaam visited the family to install smoke alarms in their new apartment.
“I’m so happy they came today,” said Madeline. “I feel safer now that we have smoke alarms in the house.”
Williams, Douglas and Abdus-Salaam talked to the children in the family about what they should do in the event of a home fire. They helped Madeline’s nine-year-old niece Wismina and three-year-old nephew Christ draw a family fire escape plan that showed how the family would exit their new home during a fire and where they would meet once safety outside.
“I’m going to stay calm and I’m going to crawl out,” said Wismina. “We are going to go outside and call 911. The firefighters will come to help.”
Wismina and Christ proudly showed their family fire escape plans to their family members and hung them on the refrigerator.
“In the event of a home fire, you may have as little as two minutes to escape your home,” Montero said. “We encourage everyone to test their smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home with their family. These two simple steps could save your life.”
To date the Home Fire Campaign has saved 197 lives nationwide.
Learn more about the Home Fire Campaign in New Jersey and access free fire safety tools and resources at redcross.org/SoundTheAlarmNJ.