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Oliver: Tragic day puts spotlight on fire safety

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March 8 is a day that many of us who live in McHenry will not soon forget.

In separate incidents in the Lakeland Park subdivision, 20-year-old Carlos Arenas-Rodriguez died of carbon monoxide poisoning and 12-year-old Dayana Garcia died in a house fire.

When firefighters arrived at Dayana’s home at 4510 Parkway Ave. at 1:20 a.m., they found it fully engulfed in flames.

Dayana’s parents and three brothers – age 4, 6 and 18 – were able to make it out of the house. Dayana, a seventh-grader at Parkland Middle School, did not.

The McHenry County Coroner’s Office determined that she died of smoke inhalation.

The fire has been ruled accidental, although its exact cause is undetermined, according to a news release from McHenry Township Fire Chief Tony Huemann.

In that same release, Chief Huemann offered some tips about smoke detectors that I’d like to share.

• Install smoke alarms on every level of a home, including the basement, making sure there is an alarm outside every sleeping area. New homes are required to have them, and all smoke alarms must be interconnected.

• Hard-wired smoke alarms operate on household electrical current. They can be interconnected so that every alarm sounds regardless of the fire’s location. It gives occupants extra time to escape if they are in one part of the home and a fire breaks out in another. Alarms that are hard-wired should have battery backups, and should be installed by a qualified electrician.

• If you sleep with bedroom doors closed, have an electrician install interconnected smoke alarms in each room so that when one alarm sounds, they all sound.

• If someone in the home is deaf or hard of hearing, consider installing an alarm that combines flashing lights, vibration and sound.

• Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings. Ceiling-mounted alarms should be installed at least 4 inches away from the nearest wall; wall-mounted alarms should be installed 4 to 12 inches away from the ceiling.

• If the ceilings are pitched, install the alarm near the ceiling’s highest point.

• Don’t install smoke alarms near windows, doors or ducts.

• Never paint smoke alarms. Paint, stickers or other decorations could keep the alarms from working.

In addition to working smoke detectors, homes also should be equipped with a working carbon monoxide detector.

If you have questions about either detector, call your local fire department.

• • •

If you’d like to help Dayana’s family, a fundraising event is planned from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at McHenry West High School, 4724 W. Crystal Lake Road.

The event will feature an Easter egg hunt, a moon bounce, face-painting, silent and live auctions, and an appearance by Chicago Bears center Roberto Garza.

Clothing or household items for the family can be donated at the event.

A bank account has been set up for donations at First Midwest Bank in McHenry or Johnsburg. To pay online by PayPal or credit card, visit

Arrangements can be made to donate larger items before Saturday’s event by calling Joe Panek at 815-861-3324.

To donate auction items, call Wayne Jett at 815-529-3447.

• Joan Oliver is the assistant news editor for the Northwest Herald. She can be reached at 815-526-4552 or by email at

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