Four area fire departments now installing smoke detectors for free

By Meghan Nelson • Last Updated 9:16 am on Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Montcalm Township Fire Chief Clif Dickinson looks at the smoke detectors donated by the American Red Cross, which will serve local residents’ and their homes for up to 10 years. — Daily News/Meghan Nelson

Teaming up with the American Red Cross, four local fire departments are on a mission to ensure all its residents have working smoke detectors.

Montcalm Township, Belvidere Township, Maple Valley Township and Lakeview District fire departments have agreed to install smoke detectors provided by the American Red Cross in their residents’ homes.

“It’s a proven fact that smoke detector’s save lives, and the fire departments that agreed to participate are eager to be able to provide them,” Lakeview District Fire Chief Patrick Q. Carr said.

The American Red Cross first approached the fire chiefs in Montcalm County earlier this year, but Dickinson said the original process sounded too difficult and he wasn’t interested at the time.

Belvidere Township, Maple Valley Township, Montcalm Township and Lakeview District fire departments are able to provide and install three smoke detectors per home for their residents. The smoke detectors and their batteries last 10 years.

But about a month ago, the Red Cross came out with a new process for providing and installing the smoke detectors.

The Red Cross is providing the fire departments with up to three smoke detectors per home, and firefighters will install them in the homes for free. The firefighters will also help the homeowners complete an accompanying safety plan and provide instructions for proper care and maintenance.

“There’s a kit that every household will get,” Dickinson said. “They’re told to draw their house and plan an escape route, two for every room. It talks about a meeting place and other safety stuff.”

The smoke detectors that residents will receive will last for ten years without changing the battery, which is sealed into the smoke detector.

“I would say 50 percent of the calls we go to — a house fire, pan burning or smoke — the smoke detectors don’t work because the battery has been pulled out or it’s been unhooked,” Belvidere Township Fire Chief Rick Rockafellow.

With the firefighters being the ones to install the smoke detectors, it also ensures they will be properly placed within the homes.

Another benefit is having the residents and firefighters be able to meet before they’re responding to an emergency.

Steve Buckner, a representative from Spencer Manufacturing in South Haven, told Dickinson at Wednesday’s Montcalm Township Board meeting another benefit this program has for firefighters and homeowners.

“A firefighter has gone through your house, and the night you have a fire and it’s dark, he might remember what the inside looks like,” he said.

Carr, Dickinson, Rockafellow and Maple Valley Township Fire Chief Dan Kain are encouraging other fire departments to sign up for the program.

Each fire department participating in the program receives 30 smoke detectors from the American Red Cross. Once those are all distributed, the American Red Cross will replenish their supply, so they can continue to serve the residents.

“You’d be surprised how many households don’t have any smoke detectors,” Kain said. “My goal is to have our coverage area so that every resident has a smoke detector. It’s something every household should have.”

Residents wanting smoke detectors installed in their homes can call the fire department who’s jurisdiction they’re under.

• Residents of Belvidere Township and the northwest sections of Douglass Township can call the Belvidere Township Fire Department at (989) 365-3000.

• Residents of Cato, Hinton, Pine and Winfield townships can call Lakeview District Fire Department at (989) 352-8120.

• Residents of Maple Valley Township can call Maple Valley Fire Department at (616) 984-5355.

• Residents of Montcalm Township can call Montcalm Township Fire Department at (616) 754-1780.

“If you live outside of those townships, you can call one of those fire departments and give them your name, phone number and address,” Dickinson said. “They can take it and turn it over to the Red Cross, and they’ll send out a crew and install it in your house.”

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