HANCOCK COUNTY — Beth Gulley pulled out her cell phone and opened a fire safety app to get the latest statistics on home-fire related deaths across the United States.
The data showed 1,416 people had died in home related fires so far this year.
Thirty of those deaths occurred in Indiana.
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Gulley, the life safety educator for the Sugar Creek Township Fire Department, joined local firefighters at area mobile home parks on a recent Saturday morning to help make sure future fire-related death figures won’t include Hancock County residents.
Personnel from the fire department, in conjunction with the National Red Cross and their Home Fire Campaign, canvassed local mobile home communities to see if residences were equipped with smoke alarms.
Victoria Eder, Red Cross program specialist, also joined the firefighters in their efforts.
The Red Cross donated nearly 200 smoke detectors for the local operation in Sugar Creek Township.
The mission of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is to reduce home fire-related deaths and injuries by 25 percent in a five-year span, officials said.
The Red Cross has been working with fire departments across the country since 2014, when the campaign kicked off. The organization is trying to make sure all homes get working smoke detectors.
One great thing about the alarms is they have 10-year batteries, so they could save a life as far as a decade into the future, Edner said.
Red Cross officials not only made sure firefighters and volunteers installed the smoke detectors correctly, without charge, they also trained them to talk with homeowners about the importance of having general home safety plans, including alternate escape routes and knowledge of where to go when there’s a tornado.
Mark Mattes, township volunteer fire chief, helped coordinate crews from Fire Station 42 at Philly Estates, 3303 W. U.S. 40, as they installed smoke alarms.
“Fire can travel so quickly, particularly in a mobile home,” Mattes said. “In many cases, people will have only seconds to get to safety.”
Jay Sitton, firefighter at Station 42, called the program a “life saver” for homeowners who could get up to three smoke detectors installed; he said he enjoyed giving up his morning to help the cause.
“It’s all worth it if we save one life,” Sitton said.
Firefighters from Station 45 also joined in on the cause, and the groups were able to install 70 new smoke alarms in Sugar Creek Township mobile homes.
Josh Glover and Dawson Jones, New Palestine High School students, also volunteered. They helped carry ladders and install smoke detectors after receiving training.
While many homes do not have working smoke detectors, Tony Bratcher, Sugar Creek Township public safety official, said smoke detectors should be abundant with one in the common area and in every sleeping area.
“You want total coverage,” Bratcher said.
The firefighters left fliers on the doorknobs of mobile homes where there was no answer, with the hope of following up later with the residents.
If someone in the township doesn’t have working smoke alarms and has a financial hardship that prevents them from buying smoke alarms, they can call 317-861-5721 to make arrangements to have them installed.
For residents who rent a home or an apartment, it is the landlord’s responsibility to provide a working smoke alarm and the renter’s responsibility to maintain it, officials said.