The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


December 18, 2013

Fatal fire prompts smoke detector program in Shamokin

Susquehanna Valley — SHAMOKIN — In the wake of last week’s fatal fire, the city of Shamokin is helping make sure people have functioning smoke alarms in their homes.

The city normally hands out free smoke detectors during Fire Prevention Week in October, but following the South Rock Street fire which killed 13-year-old Melissa Pangburn and destroyed five homes, the city wanted to make sure residents had access to smoke alarms and were having them installed properly, said Jason Zimmerman, deputy fire chief with Shamokin Fire Bureau.

The Fire Bureau is not only handing out the free smoke detectors, but installing them as well, Zimmerman said.

“Before, we didn’t know if they were ever getting installed,” he said.

The Fire Bureau recommends having two smoke detectors per home, Zimmerman said. Smoke detectors are “the easiest way to alert residents that there’s somthing wrong in their house,” Zimmerman said.

“It’s a cheap product that can save a life,” he said.

Melissa was a seventh-grade honor student at Shamokin Area Middle/High School and was home Dec. 10 as school was canceled because of inclement weather. The fire was reported at 10:58 a.m. and quickly spread to 1 through 9 S. Rock St., five units that were all condemned by the city codes office.

Shamokin police Chief Ed Griffiths said the fire was caused by “discarded smoking materials,” believed to be a cigarette. The fire began in a trash bag in a second- floor bedroom, he said, and was ruled accidental.

A Facebook page dedicated to Melissa’s memory had more than 400 likes as of Wednesday.

- To get a free smoke detectors, Shamokin residents can call the Police Department at 570-648-5708 or Shamokin city hall at 570-644-0876

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