Smoke detectors save lives of Beulah family

Published 10:18 am Friday, December 8, 2023

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The residents had just changed out the batteries of their smoke detectors the day before. 

Beulah Fire responded to a residential fire in the early hours of Saturday morning to find light smoke emitting from the kitchen of a double-wide mobile home. The flames had been extinguished, damage contained, and the family safely outside. 

No one was injured by the fire, believed to be caused by an equipment malfunction in the home’s kitchen. 

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The owners were asleep when it all started, although they were quickly awoken by the high chirping of their smoke detectors. They had checked the batteries the previous day after the old batteries started chirping indicating they were almost out of juice. The simple action may have saved the home and its occupants.

While the occupants evacuated the house, one got a water hose to smolder the flames. While acknowledging that homeowners want to protect their property, Captain of the Beulah Fire Department, Chris Payne said, “Our recommendation is not to never go back inside no matter what…that’s what we’re there for.”

Having worked as a firefighter for many years, Payne recounts a story of a civilian who ran into a fire to get something without proper gear and did not come out. 

“One good breath is going to knock you to your knees and normally by the second breath, you’re already unconscious because of how toxic that smoke is,” said Firefighter/EMT Bryce Morse.

Both firefighters agreed that an often overlooked part of fire safety is proper smoke alarm maintenance. Payne said the batteries in the smoke alarm should be changed once a year. His tip was to change them when you change your clock during fall or spring daylight savings. 

While batteries should be changed once a year, they should also be checked once a month in case of malfunction. There is a small test button standard on smoke detectors. When pressed it should do a quick beep if working properly. Smoke detectors should be completely retired after 10 years.

Every fire department in the state is part of a state-wide smoke alarm initiative where citizens can request a smoke alarm and have it installed by their department. Beulah has plenty in stock, free of charge. On Thursday alone, they got two calls in the county asking for help with a faulty detector.

Payne said that the amount of detectors per house varies, but for a three-bedroom house he averaged around six or seven.“You want one in every single bedroom and every single hallway. Also on each floor,” he said.

Payne and Morse gave some other safety measures people can take especially during the holidays. The captain asked citizens keep their Christmas trees well-watered. Space and other types of plug-in heating devices should be kept well from open flames. Morse adds that large items should only be plugged into the walls directly. Extension cords should not be used. Sleeping with your bedroom door closed can be life-saving

Morse summed up the importance of smoke detectors with a couple of statistics. “You have a 50% greater chance of making it out of a house fire and living if you have working smoke detectors in your home,” he said.

The Firefighter/EMT continued saying people have around two or less to get out of a house fire before causing serious injuries. “So the more smoke detectors that are working and can notify you early in a fire, the better outcome,” said Morse.

That was certainly true last Sunday.