Concerned about the six home fire deaths in Lexington so far in 2017, firefighters on Saturday went door-to-door in the Cardinal Valley neighborhood to offer free smoke alarms and installation to any family that needs them.
“It’s all part of the celebration of Lexington’s first Smoke Alarm Safety Day,” said Lexington Fire Department Lt. Jessica Bowman.
Installation of smoke alarms is a high priority for the department — firefighters have installed approximately 8,000 smoke alarms around town, but there had not been a dedicated day until this year.
Lexington had no home fire deaths in 2016, Bowman said, and fire officials have been concerned about the increase.
Jeffrey K. Brown, 54, Nancy Brown, 59, Cassie Brown, 8, and Wiley Brown, 8, died after a fire at their home on Laurel Hill Road in May.
Barcy Madinger, 62, died in a Flintridge Drive house fire that also resulted in the death of a dog in August.
And late last month, Dixie O’Nan, 79, died as a result of smoke inhalation after a fire at a home on Bellmeade Road.
In each case, there were no working smoke alarms in the homes, fire officials have said.
“Smoke alarms are important because they save lives,” Bowman said. Sixty percent of home fire fatalities occur in homes with non-working, or non-existent, smoke alarms. The fire department says children under age 12 and the elderly are the most vulnerable.
“Our goal is to never have another fire-related death in Fayette County, and the best way for us to achieve that goal is by installing new alarms in homes that need them,” she said.
Cardinal Valley was singled out because in mapping data from past smoke alarm installations, “we discovered we have only received a few calls (about four) for smoke alarms from this area of Cardinal Valley,” Bowman said.
Funding for Smoke Alarm Safety Day was provided through a $15,000 grant from NiSource/Columbia Gas. Most people don’t have enough up-to-date smoke alarms, Bowman said.
“Funding permitting, we’d like to replicate this model across Fayette County in order to make Lexington an even safer place to live,” Bowman said.
She said fire department officials now have more requests for alarms than they have resources and are asking for donations.
The fire department said in a news release last week that even though it receives a weekly supply of free smoke alarms from the American Red Cross and has used various grants to support the program, it is down to a two-week supply.
The department estimated that it will need $14,000 to cover smoke alarms for the homes it has scheduled for installation through the end of the year.
How to help
The Fraternal Order of Firefighters is collecting monetary donations to help cover the cost of more smoke alarms. Donations via PayPal can be made via a link on the FOF’s webpage at Lfdfof.org. Those who don’t have access to PayPal can mail checks to the Fraternal Order of Firefighters, 1405 Old Frankfort Pike, Lexington, KY 40504. Donors should write “smoke alarms” in the memo section of the check.