The deaths on Father’s Day morning – of six family members in a Newark house fire that spread without warning because there were no smoke alarms in the home – horrified a community.
Those deaths are now compelling a few people to do something to try to prevent it from happening again.
Steve Weatherford, the punter for the New York Giants, and his training facility, Next Level Training in Cedar Knolls, thought that something at minimal cost to spare the lives of people in future fires.
One thousand smoke detectors are being distributed to needy families, as a result of a partnership between Weatherford and Next Level owners Don and Lisa Shauger. The Morristown Fire Department received 250 of the devices Monday afternoon from Weatherford and the owners. Another 750 are going to be delivered to Newark in the coming days, according to the benefactors.
“We’re glad they’ll be put to good use,” said Weatherford.
Salome Stewart, her husband, Reginald Stewart, sisters Natasha Kinsale and Noreen Johnson, 15-year-old Stephen Sydney, and 11-year-old Zion Forbes all died in the fire on South 15th Street.
There were no smoke detectors in the home, acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray said at the time. The fire was apparently fed by flammable plastic flowers that adorned the porch of the South Ward home..
Investigators ruled the deaths accidental, and that the medical examiner had determined the six died of smoke and carbon monoxide inhalation. The 11-year-old Forbes was due to graduate from an East Orange elementary school later that week.
Weatherford said the deaths were as tragic as they were preventable, he said.
“And when I learned that it could have been prevented if the family had a fire detector in the house, that was when I realized we needed to raise awareness — and provide fire detectors to families who cannot afford them — to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” the football player said.
By | Seth Augenstein