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Free of charge for safety's sake

Fire departments provide free smoke alarms and installation

It takes about three minutes for a home to go up in flames from a small fire, making smoke alarms critical.

That message is especially top of mind for the Streator Fire Department.

Streator firefighters responded to a fatal house fire that killed two people just a few days before Thanksgiving, referring to the incident as one of their saddest days.

The home didn't have a smoke alarm.

Streator, Marseilles and Ottawa fire departments want to remind residents in their communities they have their backs. Each department provides smoke alarm installation for free to anyone who reaches out.

The whole ordeal takes about 15 minutes, and it may save your life someday.

“Let me be clear: when we come to install smoke alarms, we aren’t there to judge,” said Marseilles Fire Chief Michael Garrison. “We’re only there for fire safety purposes.”

Streator Fire Lt. Bryan Park said smoke alarms are important to give a head start to avert disaster.

“It’s nothing but black, chokey smoke in these fires,” Park said. “One or two breaths and you won’t be able to survive."

Chris Saar, Ottawa's fire prevention officer, said a smoke detector is recommended in every bedroom.

“One of the first things I wanted to do was start a smoke alarm program when I started this job," Saar said.

Ottawa’s program is the newest of the three, joining Marseilles as part of the Be Alarmed! Smoke Installation Program through the Illinois State Fire Marshal and the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance.

Their program began last summer and focuses on providing fire alarms for homes with disabled residents, residents under five years old or older than 65 years old.

Streator firefighters have participated in the American Red Cross program since November 2016 and they have since installed more than 2,600 smoke alarms.

Park said escape time for fires has decreased significantly in the last decade, so smoke alarms are in dire need.

“When furniture was made out of cotton and silk and wood, the estimate was you had about 17 minutes to make it out of the house,” Park said. “But now everything is made out of petroleum products. Styrofoam padding, synthetic leather and the wood is pressed particle board that’s nothing but glue and wood chips. Now they estimate you have just over three minutes to get out of your home.

"I’m hoping to push some more stuff on social media to awaken people’s minds as to why they need smoke alarms and the differences these days.”

Marseilles firefighters have installed 2,800 alarms in 555 homes in just 19 months. They’ve been recognized by the American Red Cross for reaching more than 2,000 alarm installations.

“Everyone will be or has been affected by a fire at some point,” Garrison said. “Firefighters' goal should be safety planning and my goal is to help with smoke alarms. This program is continuous; we’ll be installing alarms forever.”

Garrison also is working with the Wallace Fire Protection District to get its program started.

Saar said with winter coming, people need to be especially cautious to prevent fires. Folks need to make sure flammable materials are kept away from space heaters and never leave candles unattended, and always be sure to smoke cigarettes outdoors.

Outlets also are capable of providing a spark that might cause a blaze, along with heaters and dryers. Saar recommended changing the air filter on the furnace at the beginning of the season along with emptying the lint trap on the dryer after every load of laundry.

Need a smoke detector?

In Ottawa: Call 815-434-3785

In Streator: Call 815-672-2266

In Marseilles: Call 815-795-5535

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