UPMC Mercy Burn Center Teams Up with Local Fire Departments to Provide Smoke Detectors

By: Beth Mausteller

When fire breaks out in a home, minutes or even seconds can mean the difference between life and death. The UPMC Mercy Burn Center is teaming up with local fire departments to give people the early warning that could save lives. The burn center gifted 500 smoke detectors to the fire departments to provide for people in need.  

Patients from 40 house fires were treated at the UPMC Mercy Burn Center last year. Dr. Jenny Ziembicki, medical director of the UPMC Mercy Burn Center, hopes this effort will reduce that number.  

“A burn injury is a very painful injury,” Ziembicki said. “It’s an injury that patients will have to live with for the rest of their lives. It can change the way they see themselves, and how the rest of the world sees them. We hope by donating these smoke detectors, we can help prevent some of those injuries,” she added.       

Tom Bell, chief of the Greensburg volunteer fire department, says this program will save lives.   “There’s no doubt about it. Early detection is the best protection,” Bell said. He also reminds people to check the batteries in their smoke detectors twice a year and make an evacuation plan with your family in case of an emergency.  

Rick Steele, Greensburg Volunteer Fire Dept (left) Rodger Gennaro, UPMC (center) Tom Bell, Greensburg Volunteer Fire Dept (right)


In 2020, there were approximately 372,000 residential fires in the United States. Those fires lead to more than 2,500 deaths and more than 11,000 injuries. Rick Steele, president of the Greensburg volunteer fire department, says tragedies happen every day, and this gift could prevent the next one.   “This is the essential early detection that provides us the opportunity to get there faster and to hopefully save people’s lives,” said Steele said.    

The gift of the smoke detectors came from the Charles E. Copeland Burn Fund. Dr. Copeland established Mercy Hospital’s Burn Center in 1967. Twenty years later, he established the burn fund to support patients and their families and to advance the mission of the Burn Center. “We are proud to carry on his legacy of providing unparalleled burn care and burn prevention to the people in our communities,” said Ziembicki said 

UPMC Mercy is Western Pennsylvania’s only hospital with a Comprehensive Burn Center and Level I Regional Resource Trauma Center under one roof.