Fire Department officials pushing for smoke detector education

In response to the fire earlier this month that killed longtime residents Richard and Angela Dunbar, fire officials want to kick off a new campaign to get smoke detectors in every household.

The Dunbars, Highland Drive residents who were active in the community, died after a fire broke out in their home just after midnight on July 9. Firefighters pulled the couple from their home, but they were pronounced dead shortly after. Their house was not equipped with a single working smoke detector.

Fire Chief Dan Voreyer will present a handful of ideas tonight for an organized, citywide policy to the City Council. Possibilities include strengthening a city ordinance on smoke detector installation, working with community groups for public education on the issue and continuing to partner with Lowe's, which already donates batteries and smoke detectors to the department.

“This is really just to make sure that no one falls through the cracks,” Voreyer said.

Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association show that 53 percent of home fire deaths between 1999 and 2001 occurred in homes without smoke alarms. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Jesse Estrada, citing CDF statistics, noted that most fatal fires happen at night when people are sleeping.

People do still die in house fires if they're under the influence of drugs or alcohol or if they're trapped, but Voreyer said the chances of that happening go down with every smoke detector installed.

The city already has a multi-residential unit inspection program, where the Fire Department annually inspects apartments, motels and hotels to ensure they're equipped with smoke detectors, operable fire escapes and fire extinguishers. Voreyer credits this program with helping prevent any fires in recent years where anyone was killed or severely injured due to fire in these dwellings.

For single-family homes, residents are required under state law to have working smoke detectors if they sell their home or make more than $1,000 worth of renovations that required a building permit.

“The idea is to alert people in the very early stages of fire so they can get out quickly and safely,” Voreyer said.

tramroop@examiner.com

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