POTTSVILLE -- Schuylkill County officials are trying to save lives and are pushing the use of smoke alarms.
On May 12, a fire at a home on Pierce Street in Pottsville roared into the night. The blaze claimed the lives of Eric Brown, his sister-in-law, and Brown's four children.
One of them was 8-year-old Joy. She went to the John S. Clarke Elementary Center in Pottsville. The emotional pain can still be felt, especially for Joy's friends. Third grader Jordan Morris said he knew Joy since the first grade.
"I was very sad, depressed, what can I say? Very sad, depressed," Morris said.
Hundreds of Joy's classmates filed into the gym to hear fire officials talk about the importance of having smoke alarms in their homes.
Fire Chief Todd March said Joy's house did not have the devices, which could have saved six lives.
"That's very sad and we're really concerned about that at the Pottsville Fire Department and the city and we'll do anything we can to prevent this from happening again."
The fatal fire caught the attention of Kidde Fire Safety. The business donated 300 of their smoke alarms to the city as part of WNEP-TV's Operation Save A Life program.
The first priority is homes with children. Fire officials will install them free of charge. Neal Zipser is Kidde's community affairs manager.
"It's the right thing to do. We are the largest manufacturer in the United States," Zipser said. "It's a story we hear of everyday and when six people die and four of them being children, it's just heartbreaking."
Pottsville Area Superintendent Jeffrey Zwiebel assigned some special homework to the kids.
"Don't take no for an answer. Beg, plead, do whatever you have to do, tell your parents, if you don't have a smoke alarm or it's an older one, replace them immediately," Zwiebel told the children.
If you live in Pottsville and need a smoke alarm, give city hall a call or click here for contact information to the fire department.