Firefighters stress importance of smoke detectors following tragic house fire

DOWAGIAC — The Dowagiac Fire Department is encouraging residents to make sure they have working smoke detectors.

According to the Michigan Fire Inspectors Society, there have been 37 reported home fire deaths this year in 33 Michigan home fires as of March 28. A Dowagiac house fire claimed the lives of two people last week.

According to the fire department, there were no smoke detectors in the residence.

“We along with the entire state of Michigan promote the use of smoke detectors,” said Dowagiac Deputy Fire Chief Robert Smith. “We do our best to have some available at the department if people need them. We have few smoke detectors available right now.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, three out of five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. More than one-third of home fire deaths result from fires in which no smoke alarms are present and the risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms.

“It’s just a matter of making sure residents are using them and keeping them updated and doing the things they need to do to keep people safe,” Smith said. “Early alerting helps save lives.”

According to Smith, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Smoke detectors should be replaced 10 years from the date of manufacture and tested once per month.

“We’ll even come in and assist you in locating them,” he said. “Every department does their best to reach out and see communities safe.”

The DFD routinely partners with local businesses and organizations to encourage fire safety and prevention. SERVPRO of Cass and St. Joseph Counties, 1444 Kdf Dr., Three Rivers, donated 100 smoke detectors to the department last year and has been doing so for several years.

Before the pandemic, the DFD also visits schools to inform students of the importance of smoke detectors and fire safety and aims to resume visits once it is deemed safe to do so.

“We tell them to be fire safe and fire smart,” Smith said. “We encourage them to tell their parents to have an escape plan, another way to get out of the bedroom or house. Having an emergency escape ladder and a place for you to meet outside are also encouraged. Those are things that we take to the schools and programs. We do our best to keep the public informed.”

Additional fire safety tips from the NFPA:

  • Current alarms on the market employ different types of technology including multi-sensing, which could include smoke and carbon monoxide combined.
  • It is best to use interconnected smoke alarms. When one smoke alarm sounds, they all sound.
  • A smoke alarm should be on the ceiling or high on a wall. Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms. They should be at least 10 feet from the stove.
  • People who are hard-of-hearing or deaf can use special alarms. These alarms have strobe lights and bed shakers.
  • A closed door may slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire.

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