One of the deadliest years on record for fatal structure fires in Maine, 2014, prompted the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office to partner with the American Red Cross to distribute smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to select communities.
For its annual holiday fundraising drive, the Lincoln County Board of Realtors is joining the effort by collecting donations of smoke and CO detectors and distributing them to households in need through area fire departments.
The decision was made in response to a series of structure fires in the area and throughout the state, said Scott Lash, a paramedic with the Boothbay Region Ambulance Service and member of the board of Realtors.
Each year, the Lincoln County Board of Realtors holds an auction to support a different organization. The board has contributed to a number of worthy causes in the past, such as heating assistance and home weatherization, Lash said.
During the board’s discussion of what to do this year, Lash proposed distributing smoke detectors. “It was something that really spoke to me,” Lash said. By turning its attention to a public safety project, the board is increasing its impact and the number of people it serves through its charitable activity.
Smoke and CO detectors may seem like an inexpensive and accessible item for most households, but the number of households that do not have properly functioning smoke detectors is surprising, Lash said.
For some families, who are focused on meeting more immediate needs, the money to either replace or purchase the recommended number of smoke detectors in a home “is a stretch,” he said.
In 2014, the American Red Cross launched a nationwide campaign to reduce the number of house fire deaths by 25 percent over a five-year period by distributing smoke and CO detectors. The State Fire Marshal’s Office joined the campaign.
The campaign was launched after a survey revealed most Americans have a false sense of security about surviving a structure fire, according the American Red Cross.
There were 25 deaths as a result of house fires in Maine in 2014, the deadliest year for fire fatalities since 1993. Faulty smoke detectors played a role in all but two of those deaths, according to the Associated Press.
Reflecting on the deaths that have occurred locally and across the state and nation as a result of structure fires in recent months, “it seems like some of it could be preventable,” Lash said.
Some local fire departments received a grant from the State Fire Marshal’s Office to distribute smoke detectors, but that supply has been depleted, Lash said.
The Lincoln County Board of Realtors hopes to increase the number of smoke alarms area fire departments are able to distribute. Members of the board have offered to pick up donations from community members who would like to contribute to the effort, board member Sherri Dunbar said.
The donations received from the community will then be distributed to Lincoln County fire departments to hand out to households, Dunbar said.
“The fires that have happened in the past year really brought to life a need,” Dunbar said. “We’re reaching out to the public and asking them to get on board by donating alarms.”
The campaign is also an opportunity to raise awareness and encourage every household to make sure smoke and CO detectors are up to date, functioning properly, and placed in all recommended locations, Lash said.
Smoke detectors should be placed in every bedroom and there should be an alarm on every level of a home, according to National Fire Protection Association guidelines.
There are two types of alarms, ionization smoke alarms and photoelectric alarms. The ionization smoke alarm is better suited to detect fires with flames. The photoelectric alarm is better at detecting smoldering fires, according to the guidelines.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends each household have both types of alarms. The association recommends testing smoke alarms every month and replacing alarms every 10 years.
The Lincoln County Board of Realtors smoke detector campaign “is two-fold,” Lash said. “Think about what you need and think about what your neighbor needs.”
To arrange a donation of smoke or CO detectors, contact Sherri Dunbar at 882-5020, Julie Cromwell at 882-9100, or Bill Crocker at 380-6449.