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Charleston grandfather taking steps to keep home safe from fires

Fire safety inspectors recently helped Wesley Armstead and his wife develop a plan in case of a house fire. (WCHS/WVAH)

The U.S. Fire Administration says more than 2,200 people died in house fires nationwide last year.

Hundreds of those lives lost were children and experts say some of those deaths may have been preventable.

A baby has been an unexpected blessing for Eyewitness News Assignment Editor Wesley Armstead and his wife.

“We have custody - kinship custody - of my grandchild right now," Armstead said.

So in light of their own recent events, as well as the recent tragedy in Clay County, the Armsteads have set out to make some changes in their home.

“In between Clay and Kanawha counties, I know of five fire fatalities in the last seven days,” Mike Oakley said.

Armstead said now that they have a baby in the house, they are thinking about the potential for a fire.

Armstead enlisted the help of some experts to develop a fire safety plan and to identify any potential hazards in their Charleston home.

“This stuff hanging on the doors is going to be problematic. It's gotta go,” Oakley said as he walked through the house to inspect.

Removing anything to prevent you from shutting your bedroom doors at night, to keep a fire from spreading. Experts say the materials that make up newer homes and items inside like furniture can cause the fire to spread even more rapidly than ever before.

“The biggest thing is keep your pathways clear,” Lt. Wesley Smith said. “You don't want to leave a lot of stuff in the stairwell.”

But you do want smoke alarms and lots of them, perhaps even a new kind for children.

“They have ones where you can actually record your voice,” Smith said. “Studies have shown that with the mother’s voice, if the alarm goes off, saying ‘Hey, Johnny! There’s a fire, get out,’ the child will recognize it quickly.”

The Armsteads have a traditional smoke alarm in the hallways and more in each of their bedrooms, which is highly recommended. On the first floor, however they found one alarm that needed to be replaced.

“Typically the date will be on the back,” Smith said. “This one doesn't even have a date on it.”

Armstead learned as little Azaryah gets older, they should develop an escape plan and practice it -- one that might require grandpa to get on her level.”

“We’ll crawl together,” Armstead said.

He might have his work cut out for him.

“We’re gonna keep her safe,” Armstead said.

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