Sounding the alarm

·6 min read

Mar. 3—CLINTON — You're sleepy, but there's an alarm somewhere. Suddenly you smell something — it's something burning.

It's your smoke detectors. It's time to get everyone outside.

Lives of a Clinton family were saved recently thanks to smoke detectors sounding the alarm in the middle of the night and Clinton Fire Chief Stephen Lovette met up with the family on Saturday.

"We have two smoke detectors to present to him for when he either does renovations or is provided a new home," said Lovette of the homeowner.

"We feel this is a great opportunity to emphasize the importance of keeping your smoke detectors active."

State Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Causey came down to visit in support of this effort this week, highlighting how local fire departments can and will help the public if they need smoke detectors installed.

With March coming up, the big push is with the time change, to check and replace batteries in your smoke detectors. In the older style they need to be checked every month. Dead batteries cause one quarter of smoke alarm failures.

Especially as there's been such an increase in fire deaths over the last few years, it's even more critical to get smoke detectors in homes and working.

"It's the last day of February and we have already had 29 fire deaths this year," said Causey, citing statewide statistics. "Last year it was 134."

He said that that was up considerable over the previous two years. During the last couple of years there's been more folks at home either working or not going out as much. He said one large issue is space heaters, where they get too close to a curtain or a table cloth. Or maybe it's a candle that a pet knocks over and creates a crisis.

"We have been really promoting through the Office of the State Fire Marshal these smoke alarms through the fire departments."

Lovette said that when they pulled up on the property they were able to locate the homeowner and other residents outside, making it where they could focus on the fire foremost.

William McDaniel and his wife Maria see exactly what kind of danger they were in.

The McDaniels, and their infant child were out safely thanks to the warning from the smoke detectors.

"My brother-in-law actually woke up first, and started yelling fire, and got us all up," said McDaniel. "By the time we got out the living room was already filling with smoke. In another minute or two it probably would have knocked us out with the smoke. If it hadn't been for the fire alarms waking him up and them waking us up, we wouldn't have made it out."

McDaniel said that it didn't take any time for the fire to start tearing through the home.

"Hopefully we will rebuild here," said McDaniel.

Next to his house is his parents old house, and he said they may do some small remodeling to that to get into a place so they can figure out what they will do next.

"We will be back on this land but we just don't in what state yet," he said.

"We were able to go in and just worry about the fire. That was a load off of my mind, as well as for Captain Booth when he got here," Lovette said.

"When we came around the corner we could see that it was a working fire, as we were approaching," said Captain Matthew Booth.

Because folks were out of the house they were able to get into the house and cut off the fire before it spread through the whole residence.

"It saved their lives, 100 percent," said Booth. "We will often pull up and they are not going off. This one was very obvious. I walked from the road and they were getting out, and that was the first thing that I heard, the smoke detectors going off."

"You could hear them chiming," said Ronald Williams.

"That's kind of a trigger for us, okay, the smoke detectors are going off, therefor it woke them up so hopefully everybody is out," said Booth "That makes our job a lot easier. Our first priority is life safety."

From there they are able to go from a possible rescue to straight fire tactics, he said.

"That was the first thing I noticed and they went off the whole morning."

Even days later there was still one or two chirping away inside.

"Even when we left there the next morning there was still one or two going off inside," said Williams.

National Fire Prevention Association states that in "2012 through 2016, smoke alarms sounded in more than half (53%) of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments. Almost three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (40%) or no working smoke alarms (17%).

No smoke alarms were present in two out of every five (40%) home fire deaths. The death rate per 1,000 reported home fires was more than twice as high in homes that did not have any working smoke alarms compared to the rate in homes with working smoke alarms (12.3 deaths vs. 5.7 deaths per 1,000 fires).

In fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate, more than two of every five (43%) of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries."

The first Saturday in June is what they consider Smoke Alarm Saturday, said Causey, citing that they go around to lower income neighborhoods and go door to door.

They have been installing those at no charge.

Causey said that most fire departments will help residents with their smoke alarms, as well as install them, and all they have to do is ask. The 10-year smoke detectors are often at hardware stores for around $20 a piece.

"It's just so tragic to see people die when it is preventable," said Causey. "It's people being aware of things that can cause their family harm. That's what these fire departments are all about."

"I applaud the Clinton Fire Department and their efforts," said Causey.

There's tragedy in losing a house and personal belongings, he said, but those things can be replaced.

"They made it out alive and that's what counts."

Reach Emily M. Williams at 910-590-9488. Follow her on Twitter at @NCNewsWriter. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.