National Fire Prevention Week

Elmer Bell, 44, was one of many firefighters remembered as part of a kickoff for National Fire Prevention Week. After working at the Choctaw Fire Department in Neshoba County for just over a year, Bell died from a stroke while training to take a test at the state fire academy.

Although disturbing, fire officials say this is not that uncommon.

"Most firefighters that die don't actually die in a fire. They die either from heart attacks or strokes in relation to doing the job. The fact is that we're exposed to chemicals and when we go to work we're exposed to a high stress levels and it takes a toll on the body," said Wayne Vaughn, director of the Choctaw Fire Department.

Meanwhile, in recognition of the week, fire officials offer this advice:

Test smoke detectors at least once a month. To do so, you just press the button marked 'PUSH' and 'HOLD' on the detector.

Change batteries in smoke detectors at least once a year.

Always have at least two escape routes prepared.

Never go back inside a burning building.

When exiting a burning structure, always stay close to the floor, underneath the smoke.

"Smoke will overcome a person before fire can get to them and there are a lot of dangerous materials in smoke nowadays, in furniture. Smoke goes to the top before it comes down," said Allen Meely, liaison officer for the Choctaw Fire Department.

Free smoke detectors are available for some residents in some areas. For more information contact your local fire department.