Rockland County fire officials today are renewing their call for residents to make sure they have working smoke detectors in their homes after a fire on Wednesday in Nanuet, where a home that did not have any working smoke detectors was destroyed.
Two residents of the 5 Fredric St. home at the time of the 7 a.m. fire got out safely, but Clarkstown fire inspectors say it was a close call. A resident of the home was awakened by a burning odor, which turned out to be a fire in the home's boiler room that quickly spread throughout the house.
Fire inspectors said the home had a smoke detector, but it was not functioning. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, with the home's boiler room being the focus of the probe. About 70 volunteer firefighters from Nanuet and seven other nearby fire departments were called out to battle the blaze. No one was injured.
Rockland County Fire and Emergency Services Director Gordon Wren Jr. says the county has seen a rash of fires recently — including two fatal incidents in New City over the past year — in which the homes did not have smoke detectors or the detectors were not functioning. In reaction, Wren and other fire officials throughout Rockland County have been urging residents to help save lifes and property by ensuring homes have working smoke detectors.
Wren said Rockland County has many recent examples of major fires in which working smoke detectors gave residents precious minutes to escape safely.
"That's what smoke dectors do, they give you something really precious when your building's on fire, which is time," said Wren. "Usually it's more than a minute, but even in a minute, you can do an awful lot in a minute."
Wren says that for many people, smoke detectors just become part of their home's "woodwork" and are ignored. He said that smoke detectors should be checked regularly, and if detectors are powered by battery the battery should be changed at least once or twice a year.
He also noted that aging smoke detectors should be replaced. Wren said there have been recent incidents in which batteries had been replaced, but the smoke detector was no longer working.
Earlier this year, the Rockland County Health Department included a smoke detector initiative in its Healthy Neighborhood Program. The program can provide and install free smoke alarms to eligible residents, including low-income residents, seniors, and at-risk families.
All that is required is a brief home survey at the time of the visit, according to Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef.
The Healthy Neighborhood Program encourages residents to:
Replace smoke alarms that are more than 10 years of age
Change batteries in smoke alarms twice a year - when you change your clocks, change your batteries
Place smoke alarms on every level of your home including the basement; inside every sleeping area; and outside every sleeping area
NEVER smoke in bed, and do not walk away from a lit cigarette - better yet, stop smoking!
Never leave food cooking unattended - a serious fire can start in just seconds
Have your chimney inspected and cleaned
Make sure your furnace and all your appliances are inspected and working properly
Make sure your space heater is UL listed, and make sure that the cords are not frayed and the heater is in proper working condition
Never drape curtains or clothes over space heaters
Develop a home fire escape plan
Keep exits clear and free of debris
“Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes without working smoke alarms. Having a working smoke alarm greatly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire,” said the Health Department's Kathleen M. Henry, R.N., M.A. “We encourage residents to take advantage of the free smoke alarms, as we find many residents have outdated smoke alarms or no smoke alarms at all in their homes."
To schedule a home survey, call Christine Wagner at 845-364-3292 or Shari Stopler at 845-364-3290.
Wren said the Rockland County Fire Training Center also has some smoke detectors available for senior citizns and the disabled. Call 845-364-8800 for more information.