County program offers free smoke detectors for homes
File Photo/Jake Walker
Thanks to working smoke alarms, the occupants escaped uninjured when fire destroyed this home north of Warrenton in December 2016.
Under a new county government program, Fauquier homeowners who lack working smoke detectors can get replacements at no charge.
Homes without smoke alarms also qualify for the program.
The county’s department of fire, rescue and emergency services has implemented the program to mark “Fire Prevention Week,” which begins Sunday, Oct. 7.
Members of the county’s 10 volunteer fire/rescue companies “will coordinate with the homeowner and install the smoke alarms or replace batteries in existing operational smoke alarms,” the department said in a press release. “Alarms for deaf and hard of hearing are also available.”
The Fauquier County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association spent $4,987 to buy 750 smoke alarms.
Using a state grant, the county’s fire and rescue department spent $1,319 to provide station houses with equipment to install the alarms.
From January through August, Virginia had 47 fire fatalities, compared with 40 in 2017, according to the state fire marshal’s office.
Fauquier has had no known deaths associated with smoke detector failures during that period, county fire/rescue Chief Darren L. Stevens said.
Homes without smoke detectors account for the greatest number of fire-related residential deaths and injuries, the state fire marshal’s office reports.
“While the state fire marshal’s office continues to analyze the data, the preliminary results indicate that most fatal fires in Virginia were caused by human factors,” the press release said. “Careless smoking and improperly discarded smoking materials remain the leading cause of fatal fires in Virginia for 2018.
“Other identified causes include portable heating equipment, unattended cooking and electrical issues. The median age of the victims is 70 years old. Many of the victims had mobility issues that prevent timely evacuation from the residence.”
“The best way to fight fires is to prevent them from ever starting,” Chief Stevens said. “Together, we can prevent unnecessary loss of life and property due to fire by having working smoke alarms, conducting home exit drills and practicing fire prevention habits each day.”
Tom Marable, president of the county’s volunteer fire and rescue association, added: “If we can reduce the number of fires, we also reduce the frequency of times that we must put our crews in dangerous environments; these actions benefit both citizens and responders alike.”
Home fires burn hotter and faster because of synthetic furnishings and lightweight construction materials, according to the emergency services department.
As a result, occupants have a lot less time to exit safely — as little as two minutes from the time the alarm sounds before smoke spreads throughout a home. Smoke inhalation — not burns — cause most fire deaths.
The emergency services department provides several tips to ensure smoke alarms operate properly:
• Pick a date and activate smoke alarms monthly using the test button.
• Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning to keep smoke alarms working.
• If the smoke alarm chirps, replace the battery immediately.
• Change detector batteries when changing clocks in the spring and fall each year.
• Replace all smoke alarms every 10 years.
For more information, contact Capt. Russell Baker at 540-422-8800.