So far, more than 2,000 smoke detectors and $6,000 have been contributed to a special Save the Children Smoke Detector Fund, McLaughlin said. At least 11,000 detectors will be needed for the job, which will take several months to complete, he said.
"Never again will we tolerate the loss of the lives of children in Chester," said Councilwoman Annette Burton, another speaker at Friday's ceremony.
Twenty-three people, most of them children, have died in Chester fires over the last three years, said Chester Fire Chief Willie Hatcher. The fatal fire Dec. 5 was traced to careless smoking. It remains a dispute as to whether there was a smoke detector in the house.
After the fire, McLaughlin determined that as many as half of the rental properties in Chester had not had proper safety inspections and might not have smoke detectors. McLaughlin, who is head of the city's Public Safety Department, beefed up inspection efforts, and started closing down some unsafe housing. He also called for the installation of smoke detectors in every home.
McLaughlin vowed that the effort that began Saturday would continue. He said that records of the installation dates would be computerized and that firefighters would be sent back every six months or so to ensure that batteries were replaced.
He said donations to aid in the purchase of the remaining smoke detectors could be made to the Save the Children Smoke Detector Fund, First Keystone Federal Savings Bank, 23 E. Fifth St., Chester, Pa. 19013.