NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Chilly temperatures Monday night mean more people will turn to space heaters and unconventional methods, like their stoves. Firefighters stress that's not just dangerous, it's potentially deadly - especially for those without working smoke detectors.
It takes less than five minutes to install a smoke detector, and its value is priceless.
New Orleans Fire Dept. Superintendent Tim McConnell says, "Hopefully making sure these folks don't die in vain. That's our goal here."
On Saturday, 28-year-old Erica Moten died of smoke inhalation after her home on South Saratoga Street in Central City went up in flames. In November, three young children, their mother and grandmother all died in a Broadmoor house fire. After that tragic loss, three more people died in homes without working smoke detectors, including Moten.
"You never want to lose anyone but losing someone who was a positive force in her community, it makes it, I guess, a little tougher," McConnell said.
On Monday afternoon, firefighters fanned out, making sure everyone in Moten's Central City neighborhood is protected.
Jessie May Rankin, 87, knew about the fire department's efforts to save lives but wasn't worried about her own.
After receiving two new smoke detectors she said, "I appreciate it. Been on the news that I could call and get them out here, but I never did call."
A majority of the homes on South Saratoga and First Streets either didn't have smoke detectors or they weren't functional. NOFD Capt. Jay Fielding explains, "A lot of the people that do have them, they're not maintained. The batteries started beeping so people disconnect them, they unplug them and leave them unplugged."
It's a dangerous situation any time of year but especially now that cold weather forces some to look to alternative sources of warmth. "If it's not meant to be a heat source, if it's not a space heater, if it's not a central heater, something that's designed for that purpose, you shouldn't be using it," McConnell said.
Utilizing stoves and ovens for warmth could be a recipe for disaster and McConnell stresses not having a working smoke detector only compounds the problem.
If you need a smoke detector, all you need to do is call the New Orleans Fire Department. Firefighters will come to your home and install up to two for free. They'll also replace batteries if you're elderly and can't manage that.