MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County Fire and EMS Chiefs Association and Mount Vernon Salvation Army are working together to raise money to purchase smoke detectors for families who need them in Knox County.
Appealing to local businesses and community organizations, fundraising letters explaining the reasons behind the initiative were sent the end of December.
Scott Mast, Knox County Smoke Detector Campaign coordinator and Fredericktown fire chief, said the recent rise in fire fatalities in Ohio, and the concern that the tough economy could keep some families on a fixed income from being able to purchase smoke detectors, were two factors which motivated the chiefs to become involved in the campaign.
“We have seen the true lifesaving effects that smoke detectors have,” said Mast. “They provide time for people to escape from a house fire.”
Salvation Army Commander Maj. Robert Bender said he was glad to partner in the effort.
“Any time you can prevent death or injury, that’s what you want,” Bender said, citing The Salvation Army’s long national history of working with fire departments and first responders. “We want to be there to help the community alongside the fire personnel.”
Mast said providing smoke detectors to families who do not have them is one desire of the chiefs. The other is education.
“One of the goals of this program is to advocate for the awareness and education of the importance of smoke detectors,” he explained.
Last week, State Fire Marshal Michael Bell issued a statement pointing out the increase in fire deaths in Ohio last year.
“More than 180 people lost their lives in Ohio last year, and working smoke detectors could have made the difference between life and death,” he said.
In 2006, 129 people were killed in fires in Ohio. The jump to 180 deaths last year has firefighters throughout the state concerned. Over 80 percent of the fire fatalities in Ohio in 2008 occurred in homes without working smoke detectors.
Mast said the newer materials used in furniture and home construction today give off even deadlier smoke as they burn.
“So many things in our households today are toxic,” he said. “The simple fact is that today’s homes contain so many synthetic materials, which, when they burn, produce very toxic gases which are carried throughout the house in the smoke. Early detection of this very deadly smoke is the key to survivability.”
The Salvation Army will purchase smoke detectors with the money raised through the smoke detector fundraising. The detectors will then be distributed by Knox County fire departments.
Bell, a longtime smoke detector advocate, praised the Knox County campaign. “Having a smoke detector is the single most important thing families can do to protect themselves from the dangers of fire,” the marshal said.
“I applaud the efforts of the fire departments, The Salvation Army and the media in and around Knox County for taking the initiative to remind citizens of the safety smoke detectors provide, and for allowing people the opportunity to obtain a smoke detector if they need one,” he said.
“The county fire chiefs firmly believe it’s important that every home in the communities we serve should have the protection of smoke detectors,” Mast said. “We want to make sure every household has the protection of smoke detectors.”