Four fire deaths in 2016, four too many as Roanoke Co. launches new campaign

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ROANOKE CO (WSLS 10) - House fires in Roanoke County have killed more people this year than any other year in the past decade.

Wednesday morning, the county's Fire and Rescue department launched a new campaign aimed at reducing those deaths.


In the first four months of 2016, four people were killed in separate house fires. Two of those were 10-year-old Patrick McKinnon and his younger brother, 5-year-old Logan. It was a tragedy that rocked the community.

Brian Clingenpeel with Roanoke County Fire and EMS was there that day.

"We don't want families in Roanoke County or anywhere else for that matter to experience this again," Clingenpeel said.

He says for firefighters who vow to serve and protect, to lose someone in a fire is especially painful.

"In some respects, when we can't do that, it hurts us."

From 2006-2016 there were 18 total fire-related deaths. Of those deaths, 13 happened in homes.

Of those 13 deaths, 9 happened from 2006-2015. Four died in just the first four months of 2016 alone.

Brian Simmons is Roanoke County's fire marshal. He sees each fire first hand.

"This first half of the year has been pretty rough," Simmons said.

It's his job to investigate each fatal fire, a job that's never easy, especially when it involves children. He says the McKinnon fire is one that stuck with him.

"It's very difficult, especially when you have children of your own. When you are doing the investigation and you have to take the steps that you do to secure the families loved ones but also you think of your own when you are doing that and it can be tough," Simmons.

That's why his family volunteered to be part of the fire safety video.

It's part of the campaign that Roanoke County has launched to help educate the public about fire safety, creating an emergency evacuation plan and talking to young children

Simmons says each fire house will volunteer with a local school this upcoming year, increasing fire safety programs in the classroom.

It's all with the hopes of never letting another tragedy happen again.

"If one family is saved, we've done our job. It doesn't matter if it's one or it's fifty. We want to make sure that we get that message out there that people are safe," Simmons said.

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