Christopher Hitchye knocked on a door Thursday morning in the south Kansas City neighborhood where a just a day before a father and two children died in a fire.
“Fire Department,” announced Hitchye, a Kansas City firefighter. He was among more than a dozen firefighters, Red Cross workers and volunteers who canvassed the neighborhood passing out fire-safety and prevention tips.
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“We want people who don’t have a smoke detector or if they need another one of them to know they can order one from us,” Hitchye told the man who answered the knock.
James Williams replied that his home already had smoke detectors, but he appreciated seeing Hitchye and the others back in the neighborhood.
“I think it’s a really good thing,” Williams said. “Some people can’t afford the different things that are needed to help save a life.”
Early Wednesday morning, a fire swept through a house in the 10800 block of Bennington Avenue, killing Christopher Greve, 31; Donnica Runnels, 7; and Brinton Greve, 2.
Greve’s wife, Shyla Greve, was not home at the time.
Investigators are still trying to determine how the fire, which appears to be accidental, started.
Fire officials said the home had at least one working fire alarm but it was near the garage.
“That’s the one smoke detector that firefighters heard when they were into the structure,” said Battalion Chief Lew Hendricks, a spokesman for the Kansas City Fire Department. “We have yet to find any evidence in the main body of this house that there were any working smoke detectors.”
Working smoke detectors cut the chance of serious injuries or death in half, Hendricks said.
Rebecca Nafzinger, community disaster education manager for the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the American Red Cross, said Thursday’s canvass was meant to educate people about fire safety.
Safety tips were hung on door handles or placed in the mail boxes of about 200 houses in the neighborhoods. The packet included a letter about the tragedy, a fire prevention and safety checklist and a brochure about helping young children cope with trauma.
Along with making sure everyone knew the importance of smoke alarms, the Red Cross also wanted to make sure people knew what to do in case of a fire.
“We want them to make a plan so if there is ever a fire they can get out safely,” Nafzinger said.
Part of that plan is having a meeting place so families can tell quickly whether everyone made it out. If not, they can notify firefighters who’s missing and which rooms they stay in.
People needing help developing a plan, called Exit Drill In The Home or EDITH, can call the Fire Department or the American Red Cross.
“Our heart goes out to this family,” Nafzinger said. “It is an incredible tragedy. We want to make these tragedies stop.”