Firefighters sound the alarm about smoke detectors in Edmonds

Firefighter Pirie Hart installs a smoke alarm.

Residents of the Seaview neighborhood received a pleasant surprise Saturday morning as Edmonds Fire Station 16 firefighters showed up at their door bearing smoke alarms, fresh batteries and practical advice — like what to do if you burn your toast and the darn thing won’t turn off.

It was all part of Smoke Alarm Saturday, sponsored by Snohomish County Fire District 1 at various locations to remind people to change the batteries in their smoke alarms at the same time they turn their clock back at the end of daylight savings time. In addition home visits in select neighborhoods, firefighters also gave away free batteries at Petosa’s and Top Foods grocery stores in Edmonds.

The first Seaview home firefighters visited was that of Shauna and Michael Swogger and their four young children. The family had a working smoke detector but the Swoggers weren’t sure if the batteries needed changing. Firefighters replaced them just in case, leaving behind some literature on the proper care of smoke alarms.

Then it was on to the residence of Gayle Corier, 84, who has lived in her house for more than 50 years and uses a walker. Corier said she knew her smoke alarms were at least 10 years old and probably needed replacing, “but I didn’t know what to do about it.” She also told firefighters that her alarm often would go off at the slightest smell of smoke, including burned toast. All four alarms in Corier’s house were replaced with newer models, and she was even given a lesson in how to turn off those so-called “nuisance alarms.”

Edmonds Station 16 firefighters Andre Yoakum, left, and Keith Bien discuss smoke detector replacement at the home of Seaview resident Gayle Corier Saturday.

Fire District 1 Public Information Officer Leslie Hynes told Corier that she was welcome to call the fire station during the day — and even 911 at night — if she couldn’t shut her alarm off on her own.

Firefighters had a reason for choosing the Seaview neighborhood for their smoke alarm project: 72-year-old JoAnne Lamb died of smoke inhalation in her Seaview home after it caught fire in January 2010. The house had several smoke detectors but they had been disabled because of nuisance alarms, said her son, Greg Lamb, who spoke with My Edmonds News on Saturday.

Greg Lamb, who grew up in the 84th Avenue West house but now lives in Snohomish, said he will never forget receiving the call about the fire, making the agonizing 40-mile drive to Edmonds and seeing several partially melted smoke detectors in a closet next to the bedroom where his mother died. Since her death, Lamb said he has been on a personal crusade to educate people about the importance of having working smoke alarms in their homes.

“At my mom’s funeral, we handed out batteries,” Lamb said. “I tell everybody I talk to, ‘Go home and call your loved ones and make sure they have just one working detector.'”

Here are some tips from Fire District 1 on smoke alarm installation and maintenance:

– Make sure your smoke alarms work: Test once a month by pushing the test button or using smoke, and clean them monthly using a vacuum to unclog the vents.

– Replace the battery at least once a year. Battery replacement is not necessary if you have a newer alarm equipped with 10-year batteries. Smoke alarms with 10-year batteries need to be checked and the entire alarm should be replaced if not operational.

-Install a smoke alarm in every sleeping area of your home and at least one on every level of your residence.

– To avoid false alarms caused by cooking, keep ovens and stove top burners clean, and clean out crumb accumulations in the toaster. Also use the range hood fan to remove steam and combustion particles from the air.

For  more tips, as well as information on the various types of smoke alarms available for purchase, visit the Fire District 1 website.

If you don’t have a smoke alarm, Fire District 1 will install one free of charge. Firefighters will also come to your home to answer questions about installation, operation and maintenance. To make an appointment, call Kim Schroeder at 425-551-1254 or Tina Delisle at 425-551-1250.

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