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Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue offers free smoke alarm installations

CKFR spokeswoman Theresa MacLennan (left) speaks with Gerlena Kingston about the new smoke alarms the fire agency installed in her East Bremerton home Tuesday. - Jesse Beals/staff photo
CKFR spokeswoman Theresa MacLennan (left) speaks with Gerlena Kingston about the new smoke alarms the fire agency installed in her East Bremerton home Tuesday.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/staff photo

1988.

That’s the year Gerlena Kingston’s smoke alarm was installed in her East Bremerton home.

Luckily for Kingston, Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue (CKFR) personnel still had several new smoke alarms to install for homeowners free of charge.

Since May, CKFR installed more than 300 smoke alarms in mobile home parks across Central Kitsap. CKFR spokeswoman Theresa MacLennan said the department focused mainly on mobile home parks with no nearby fire hydrants.

The smoke alarm project is made possible by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and the Washington State Department of Health. Mark Jackson from CDC and Mary Borges, with the state Department of Health, were on hand Tuesday to chat with MacLennan and go door to door in Camelot Mobile Estates in East Bremerton to watch CKFR personnel install the alarms.

The CDC smoke alarm program has been in 22 states since its inception 10 years ago. Jackson said 17 states are participating in the grant program this year and he travels from Alaska to Georgia checking up on the agencies working with the program.

MacLennan said the smoke alarm program went well this year, with CKFR installing 349 alarms in 135 residences. Homeowners, like Kingston, seemed to appreciate the free service offered by the fire agency.

“I think it’s nice. Especially us retired people, we can’t afford to buy all the smoke alarms,” Kingston said.

Kingston lives in Camelot Mobile Estates where a family of five was displaced after their home burned in a fire in February. Kingston said that fire “scared (her) half to death,” so she appreciated CKFR installing smoke alarms in her home this week.

Jackson said 385,000 smoke alarms have been installed in the past 10 years, resulting in thousands of lives saved thanks to the grant program.

The smoke alarms contain lithium ion batteries, which are good for 10 years, but 80-year-old Kingston said, with help from her 11-year-old grandson, she will test the devices monthly to ensure they are working.

CKFR Assistant Chief Randy Billick said this year’s smoke alarm installations opened his eyes. He said he saw many homes with non-functioning smoke alarms, while other did not have alarms at all.

“I’ve been in fire prevention for 20 years and I saw some of the oldest alarms I’ve ever seen,” Billick said.

Jackson added that working smoke alarms will save people’s lives, so it is important for people to regularly test the devices.

“Two-thirds of residential fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarm at all or no working alarm,” he said.

Despite the positive reasons homeowners should invest in working smoke alarms, Jackson said there are still some folks who refuse to have the devices in their homes.

Jackson said a man in Kentucky would not let fire personnel install smoke alarms in his home because he thought someone would watch him from the device.

“I think I’ve seen or heard almost everything,” Jackson said with a smile.

MacLennan said she likes having the opportunity to install smoke alarms and educate people on fire escape planning. She also said that “the public loves to see the firefighters” out and about in the community.

MacLennan told Jackson that given the opportunity, CKFR could easily install more smoke alarms in local residences over the next few years.

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