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Lawsuit Filed Over Deadly Fire in Limestone County

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - Earlier this year, flames consumed a home on Snake Road in Limestone County.

The man of the house woke up to smoke and tried to save his mom and sister.  But despite his best efforts, they died.  Now, a Huntsville attorney filed a lawsuit not only seeking damages, but hoping for a change -- and it may involve something in your home right now.

The fire happened on February 12.  It was a horrible story.  Thomas Lamar was asleep in the basement level of this home when he awoke to the smell of smoke.  Rushing upstairs, he found the house ablaze and full of thick, toxic smoke.

Lamar tried to drag both his elderly mother and his sister to safety, but the intense heat and flames drove him back.  Josephine Lamar, 76, and her daughter, 43-year-old Traci Shook, died.

"Smoke alarm never went off," said attorney Gary Conchin. "The house burned up without it ever going off."

Conchin represents the relatives of those lost in that fire.  And while there are other aspects of his lawsuit, he has named as defendants Underwriters Laboratories, which approve the sale of cheaper, ionization smoke detectors, and the Jarden Corporation, makers of the First Alert smoke detector.

"There are 1,500 complaints a year, or more, about these kinds of defective smoke alarm systems. They don't sound, or they sound late in the presence of smoke," said Conchin.

Conchin says first and foremost he's looking for relief for his client, he makes no bones and no apologies for it.  But more than that, he says he hopes this lawsuit will take that type of smoke detector off the market.  He says if you and your family go to sleep tonight with one in your home, you may not be protected from smoke and fire.

Conchin says a number of tests and studies show the photoelectric smoke detectors are much better for detecting smoke from a smoldering fire.

See this related story: WHNT News 19 tests different types of smoke detectors - photoelectric vs. ionization-type.

1 Comment

  • Skip Walker

    Every day about 3 people in the US die because their Ionization Alamrs fail them when needed most. Changing to photoelectric smoke alamrs would save (conservatively) 1,000 lives per year. The National Institute for Standards and Technology, NIST, (a US government agency) tells us that in their tests, Ionization alarms respond on AVERAGE 30 minutes slower than photoelectric smoke alarms. Further, NIST states that ionization alamrs may fail to sound at all even when the room is full of smoke. It is almost a certainty that these people would not have perished if they had had that extra 30 minutes.

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