ATTICA, Ohio — Fire and school district officials want to give every Seneca East Elementary School family at least one smoke alarm following a house fire in which a local family, including three students, died.
The bodies of two adults and three children were found Nov. 27 in the charred ruins of a Reed Township house. The victims tentatively were identified as Joseph D. Hamilton; his wife, Holly R. Hamilton; her daughter, Olivia Bondy, 11, and the couple’s two sons, Jaxon Hamilton, 8, and Linkin Hamilton, 6. Olivia was a sixth grader, and the boys were in second grade and kindergarten at Seneca East.
The school and fire districts serving Republic, Attica, Venice, and Reed announced a new fund-raising effort, the SafE Homes for Families Fund to buy smoke alarms for elementary school families. The goal is to give at least one alarm to each of the 366 families, said Jaimie Beamer, president of the Seneca East Local Schools board.
“We’re a small, close-knit community. It struck us hard. It was a hard thing for the students, for the staff, the faculty, and the community as a whole. So, we just want to do what we can to make the students feel safe,” she said.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office investigated the fire and has been unable to identify a specific cause because of the extensive damage.
Officials said electric space heaters or smoking could have sparked the fire. The home had battery-operated smoke detectors, but officials don’t know whether they were working.
In 2009, the most recent data available, a Seneca County Community Health Assessment found 4 percent of county homes did not have a smoke alarm. Another 7 percent of Seneca County adults said they never test smoke alarms; and 15 percent said it had been a year or longer since they tested alarms.
The smoke alarm donation effort will be combined with fire prevention and safety training for students.
In addition to observing Olivia’s birthday on Dec. 5, the school’s sixth graders attended a special fire safety training program with local firefighters and the fire marshal office’s Fire Prevention Bureau.
“We wanted to, in a timely fashion, address the concerns of the sixth grade class. A lot of her classmates had legitimate fears of, ‘We don’t want this to happen to us’,” Principal Brad Powers said.
He said the school already does fire safety lessons, but it plans to offer grade-specific training in the coming months.
The school experienced a “stressful, mournful” time since the deadly fire, but the efforts are a chance to establish “a legacy that maybe we can prevent for generations now another tragedy,” he said.
Attica-Venice-Reed Fire District Chief Brett Meyers said firefighters will assist residents with the new smoke alarms. He said smoke detectors should be replaced after 10 years and should be checked monthly. Four times a year, an adult should light a match near an alarm and blow it out to make sure the smoke triggers the alarm, he said.
Smoke alarms should be installed on every floor and in every bedroom of a house. He advised families to practice two different escape plans to use in the event of a fire and to agree on a safe place to meet once people have left the house.
Mr. Meyers said surviving family has expressed support for the smoke alarm effort. Officials have no specific funding goal but hope to raise enough money to provide smoke alarms to others in the community in need.
Donations can be mailed to or dropped off at: Republic Banking Co., P.O. Box 99, Republic, Ohio 44867 or Sutton Bank in Attica, P.O. Box 505, Attica, Ohio 44807. Checks should be made out to SafE Homes for Families.
Contact Vanessa McCray at: email@example.com or 419-724-6065.
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