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Firefighters check homes for safety

TAMPA — Ann Jones watched as a firefighter in full safety gear lifted the jaws of life to the burglar bars that have enclosed her wood-frame East Tampa home for the last 22 years.

Clip. Clip. The bars broke.

"That makes me feel better," said Jones, 57, who has an electric security system now.

Jones was one of dozens of residents visited Monday morning by Tampa firefighters and fire marshal inspectors who offered to conduct safety reviews of houses.

A week ago, just around the corner, two people died in a house fire, trapped behind burglar bars. The unmovable iron put them out of reach of rescuers, and smoke detectors lacked working batteries.

All told, about 20 officials made the rounds Monday, knocking on 150 doors, installing 54 smoke detectors and replacing about half as many batteries.

Jones made an extra request: Could they cut through the padlock on her burglar bars?

"I'm scared stiff," she told them.

Jones knows Mary Jones-Bynes, the lone survivor from the Dec. 8 blaze at 2905 Chipco St.

Today, the Jones-Bynes family will gather for a funeral to mourn the deaths of Latoya Jones-Williams, 26, and Willie Bynes, 69 — Mary Jones-Bynes' granddaughter and husband.

The fatal fire was the second in the area in recent weeks. Frances Baker, 85, died Nov. 28, the day after a Thanksgiving Day house fire at 1915 E 18th Ave. Baker's smoke detector didn't work, either.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, about 20 people die each year in fires that involve burglar bars. And, between 2000 and 2004 nationally, 65 percent of fatal fires happened in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Benettye Davis, whose mother was Mary Jones-Bynes' best friend, was outside her "Auntie Mary's" house Monday when she first saw the firefighters making the rounds to neighbors, something they try to do when there's a fatal fire in a neighborhood.

"I just started to cry," Davis said. "I said, 'Wow, thank you.' "

A double funeral for Bynes and Jones-Williams will be held at 1 p.m. today at St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, 506 E Harrison St.

Fast facts

To make donations

A donation fund has been set up for the surviving victim of the Chipco fire, 73-year-old Mary Jones-Bynes. Anyone who wishes to give a donation should send a check to the Fifth Third Bank at 2001 Adamo Drive. Checks should be made out to "The Jones/Bynes Family Fund."

Firefighters check homes for safety 12/15/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 5:11pm]
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