On March 11, 38-year-old Hosea Shelton died in a house fire at 182 S. Liberty St.

On March 11, 38-year-old Hosea Shelton died in a house fire at 182 S. Liberty St.

During the subsequent fire investigation, fire officials found no working smoke detectors.

That tragedy led Delaware fire chief John Donahue and his department to visit 430 residences surrounding the South Liberty residence the week after the fire to distribute information on the fatal fire and on the importance of smoke alarms.

"We were very well received and the comments our personnel received were extremely positive," Donahue said. "The community outreach was a team effort between multiple city departments, including fire, community affairs and GIS (geographic information systems), which mapped the area to make it manageable."

Firefighters were able to contact about a third of the residents, and left materials for those who were not home, he said. They also delivered materials to churches to distribute to their congregations.

"We were able to identify that about 72 percent of the residents had working smoke detectors," the chief said, which is higher than the 60 percent national average.

"But I don't think any fire chief would be happy with anything less than 100 percent," he said.

The fire department has a limited number of smoke detectors and batteries for residents at no cost and will work with others to get them.

"Several of the residents have taken us up on the offer," Donahue said. Batteries Plus donated 144 batteries to the department to distribute.

The department also will follow up with the 28 percent of residents without a working smoke detector.

"Our department cannot overstress the importance of smoke detectors," Donahue said. Four children died in a mobile home fire in Champaign County last week where there were no working smoke detectors.

Last year, more than $600,000 worth of damage in Delaware involved properties without a smoke detector or the smoke detector was inoperable.

That figure could have been lower, if the fires had been discovered sooner, Donahue said,

cpreston@thisweeknews.com