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Smoke Detectors Scarce in Southwood Community


August 27, 2013

Despite a trailer home fire early Saturday that sent one woman to the hospital with serious injuries, neighbors in the Southwood community are reluctant to install smoke detectors if they don't have them already.

The woman injured in the fire has been released from the intensive care unit at the University of Virginia Medical Center but remains hospitalized as she recovers from burns.

The Southwood community is supporting the family who has been displaced by the fire and lost nearly everything.

"I think that one of the most notable things is how the community, the Southwood community, has rallied around the family," said Gloria Rockhold, the community engagement manager for Albemarle County Public Schools and the chair of Creciendo Juntos. A 17-year-old boy who lived at the home attends Monticello High School.

Lucia Lopez and Meliton Costilla live across the street from the house.

"We were very afraid that the fire would cross the street and get to our trailer," Lopez said through a translator.

However, they say they don't have smoke detectors installed in their own trailer, and they don't have much interest in getting one installed.

"We will be more careful with what appliances are turned on and we're going to make sure everything's turned off," Lopez said.

The lack of smoke detectors in Southwood increases the fear that another fire could happen again and have consequences worse than Saturday's.

"One of the issues here in this neighborhood is that the trailers are fairly close to each other, so one fire can easily go to another trailer," Rockhold said.

But a community that bands together might not like strangers entering their homes, even if it's a firefighter offering a free smoke detector and installation. Others see the importance.

"The tragedy is very, very sad. No one expects something like this," neighbor Arnolfo Blanco said through a translator. "I don't have a smoke detector and it's something I need."

For now, the focus is on helping the family who lost everything they had, from money to clothes to furniture.

"Money's going to be a major need for them, especially to help them get reestablished," Rockhold said. "The next step is what to do. So we're there to help them out."

Monticello High School is collecting any donations to aid the family.


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