MOULTRIE -- A program inspired by a Northwest Moultrie fire that killed six people celebrated its first confirmed saved life Wednesday.
Reacting to the multiple fatalities from the June 6, 2001, fire at 1210 12th St. N.W., Moultrie firefighters began urging residents to get smoke detectors. In February 2002, the fire department received a grant from the Georgia Division of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to install smoke detectors for free.
On Nov. 17, one of those smoke detectors saved Pamela Sailem and her three children.
An electrical problem in a light fixture was blamed for the early morning fire in the bedroom occupied by Sailem's 14-year-old son, Ronzell Murphy. The smoke alarm sounded, waking Murphy.
"When I heard the fire detector, I was scared when I woke up," Murphy said. "It was a bad feeling."
The boy ran to his mother's room and woke her. She grabbed a cordless phone and called 911. While on the phone, she roused her daughters, 3-year-old Christine and 12-year-old Tamela Murphy, and by that time the house was filling with smoke.
"By the time I was out the door," Sailem said, "the fire department was pulling up."
No one was hurt, and damage was confined to the room where the fire started and the attic immediately above it, according to MFD Chief Ken Hannon.
"The structure had some smoke damage and some heavy fire damage right there in that one spot," Hannon said. "... (The fire) went straight up when it started."
Sailem's family was back in the house at 824 Sixth Ave. S.E. two days later, although some renovation is still going on.
On Wednesday, Steve Davidson and Dave Dawson came to Moultrie to make a video about the fire. Davidson manages the smoke detector program for the Division of Public Health. Dawson is an independent filmmaker.
Davidson said the video will go to the agencies that fund the program to show them how successful it is.
"The CDC uses things like this to convince Congress to continue to fund the program, to help save lives," he said.
The grant program started 26 months ago, Davidson said, and in that time it has saved 48 lives.
Since the MFD joined the program in February 2002, local firefighters have installed 2,731 smoke detectors, Hannon said. While this is the first confirmed save by one of the detectors, he said others may have warned residents of a fire early enough that they could deal with the situation without having to call the fire department.
Firefighters continue to canvass Moultrie neighborhoods, asking to inspect or install smoke detectors. There's no charge for the detector or the installation. Any Moultrie resident who needs a detector can call the fire department at 985-1805 to request one.