WICHITA, Kan. — The family of a man who died in a house fire earlier this year is using the tragedy as a way to save lives.
Forty-one-year-old Clifford Davis died in a duplex fire in the 100 block of West Zimmerly on January 18. There were no working smoke alarms in the home.
The tragedy inspired his family and friends to establish a memorial fund in his name, with the proceeds to be used to purchase smoke alarms that will be distributed for free by the Wichita Fire Department.
"My family, my dad, have always said that if we can save one person, we've done something," said Tylee Davis, Cliff's younger sister.
South High Senior Alex Barton, who considered Davis a surrogate uncle, also sold wrist bands printed with the words, "Smoke Detectors Save Lives."
"Tylee and everybody was hurting and I was hurting so I thought I'd turn it into positive energy and do something about it," Barton said.
Today, on what would have been Davis' 42nd birthday, the family gave two checks to the department, totaling about $1,400. That's enough money to purchase 140 smoke alarms.
"This is an opportunity for the fire department to say, 'Thank you,'" said Wichita Fire Chief Ron Blackwell said.
According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), about 2,500 people die in home fires in the U.S. every year, and that most of those homes don't have a working smoke alarm.
Eleven people died in house fires in Wichita last year, and seven were in homes with no working smoke alarms.
So far this year, the department has already installed 300 smoke alarms for free as part of their smoke alarm installation program, which began in 2011. Since the program began, they have installed more than 1000 smoke alarms for families in need.
Cliff's family says raising the money and helping support that program has helped them through the difficult months without him. One of the hardest days, they say, was Cliff's favorite day: Super Bowl Sunday.
"We're learning to just go on, it's hard," Tylee said.
As they go on, they are so passionate about making sure smoke alarms are in every home, they have decided to make a similar monetary donation to the Wichita Fire Department every May in Cliff's honor.
"He was a hard working man. He loved his family. He would be very happy to see what we are doing right now," Tylee said. "I know for a fact he's sitting there thanking us, Alex, and you guys for helping someone else."
To donate to the family's ongoing fundraising efforts to purchase additional smoke alarms, please visit their page