Firefighters mounting smoke detector campaign

By Tom Joyce -

An ongoing campaign by the Mount Airy Fire Department to check smoke detectors in homes and, if needed, install new ones for free will continue next week in another city neighborhood.

This time the effort is targeting a residential area in the northern section of town which includes Woodruff, Kyle and Frank streets — bolstered by an allocation of more than 100 detectors from the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Department personnel, about five in all who make up one fire truck company, plan to go door to door on Monday through Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. each day. They will be armed with equipment such as stepladders and drills.

“We like to do two canvasses a year,” city Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said Friday of the ongoing campaign, which is a preventative effort to safeguard local residents and avoid major property losses.

In selecting the locations for smoke detector distributions, the fire department relies on information from the Surry County 911 database, which pinpoints areas where fires have been more prevalent, and the findings of a risk assessment conducted around 2011.

“We partner those two documents together,” Poindexter explained.

The fire department always announces the smoke detector campaigns in advance so residents who want to take advantage of the free service will know to be home when fire personnel are in their neighborhoods. In addition to installing smoke detectors in homes lacking the devices, they will check to make sure existing ones are functioning properly.

“If there’s any potential of anything being wrong with the smoke detector or its shelf life is out of date, we will go ahead and replace it,” the fire chief said.

In some cases, multiple detectors might be installed at one location.

“It depends on how a house is laid out,” Poindexter said. That can involve “a lot” being placed at a single residence to bring it up to the state-recommended level.

“We’ll keep on going until we run out of detectors,” Poindexter said.

The Mount Airy Fire Department has built a good reputation with the Office of the State Fire Marshal, which has resulted in generous allocations of free smoke detectors because state officials know the devices will reach local residences, he said.

“They know we’re a department who has aggressively gone out and did these campaigns,” Poindexter added.

“We really get out and beat the bushes and get them (detectors) in people’s homes.”

The smoke detector campaigns are rotated between the northern and southern sections of town.

Effort paying dividends

The distribution program has made a big difference in at least one case so far, according to the fire chief.

That occurred during the winter after a snowfall, when a grease fire broke out in the kitchen of a residence on Spring Street where the department had installed a smoke detector.

Its presence alerted the occupants, including a 2-year-old child, who were able to escape unharmed, with the fire damage limited to the one room.

“That’s good proof that it’s working,” Poindexter said of the detector effort.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

By Tom Joyce

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