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Norristown community will honor two young fire victims with smoke detector blitz on Saturday

Norristown will honor two young fire victims with smoke detector blitz
Norristown will honor two young fire victims with smoke detector blitz 02:04

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) -- A Norristown Area School District teacher will remember a student and the child's sister with a smoke detector blitz with help from the Norristown Fire Department.

"She came in speaking almost no English," Lead teacher at Ray S. Musselman Learning Center Kelly Espinoza said while remembering six-year-old Yaritza Pineda who was a kindergartner in 2016. Espinoza remembered the young girl being extremely sharp.

"By the time we were in May, she was speaking English and understanding and writing," Espinoza said.

That same month, Yaritza and her older sister Jennifer died after a house fire in Norristown, along with two adults. Fire investigators said the home's smoke detectors were not working properly. Espinoza turned that deep loss into the nonprofit Operation Mariposa, Spanish for Yaritza's favorite insect.

"She loved butterflies," Espinoza said.

As part of that nonprofit, Espinoza and Norristown firefighters will hold a smoke detector blitz on Saturday morning. They will install free smoke detectors in family's homes.

Oct. 8 - 14 is Fire Prevention Week. Thanks to Norristown Fire Department for always educating students about fire...

Posted by Municipality of Norristown on Friday, October 13, 2023

The fire department also has a fire simulator trailer. The trailer can be filled with smoke and offer a chance for kids to practice getting out if they're ever stuck in a fire. First and third-graders from St. Francis Assisi school took their turn Friday.

"Alright. It's getting smoky, so let's get down on our hands and knees," firefighters gently instructed the kids to crawl on the floor.

First responders also showed the kids how to check if a door has fire on the other side, by feeling if the door is hot. Then, the firefighters showed the children how to crawl out a different door to safety. Six-year-old Alan Perez said, even as the trailer filled with smoke, he was not scared at all.

"Because we needed to crawl under the smoke," Perez said.

Espinoza said she hopes all this work makes the Pineda girls proud.

"I hope that they know that their memory lives on," she said. "I know that they are with us all the time."

The Operation Mariposa smoke detector blitz will kick off at 9 a.m. at the Montgomery Hose Fire Company at 201 Freedley Street.

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