HomeWashington Twp. NewsWTFD installs 1,000th free smoke alarm in community

WTFD installs 1,000th free smoke alarm in community

Through partnerships, WTFD is preaching fire prevention and safety to the community

The Washington Township Fire Department, in a partnership with the American Red Cross, recently installed its 1,000th free smoke alarm in the community over a two-year period. (Anthony J. Mazziotti III/The Sun)

The Washington Township Fire Department took Elvis Presley’s advice to have “a little less conversation, a little more action” to heart when teaching fire prevention to the community. The fire department recently installed its 1,000th free smoke alarm in a two-year period.

The American Red Cross’ “Home Fire Campaign” is the inspiration behind the fire department’s mission to install smoke alarms in the community. According to American Red Cross Executive Director Madhuri Rodriguez, the organization has installed 33,000 smoke alarms since the program’s inception in 2014.

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“Without your partnership, we are unable to do what we do, which is trying to make homes safer and help people become more educated about what they have to do to be safe,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of time you hear about large disasters that are happening around the country; hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and so on. The biggest disasters that people aren’t aware of are home fires. It’s a constant disaster that we’re constantly responding to.”

Fire prevention coordinator Adam Seczech tests a smoke alarm to make sure the battery is functioning. (Anthony J. Mazziotti III/The Sun)

Fire Chief Patrick Dolgos brought some statistics to light in regard to house fires. He said 50 percent of smoke alarms that don’t go off in home fires are because they’re either disconnected or the batteries are missing. An additional 23 percent aren’t working at all because they’re old and outdated, he added. Dolgos said Capt. Stephen Finn found a smoke detector in a home from 1973. Fire prevention coordinator Adam Seczech said he found one that was at least 35 years old.

“One of the things investigators do when we do an investigation is check for smoke detectors, see if they’re there and see if they’re working,” Finn said. “A lot of times we’ve had a fire where there’s no trace of any smoke detectors or the lid’s hanging down and the battery’s out of it. The non-removable battery unit is the best thing that ever came out.”

The fire department is preaching fire prevention tips year round. For example, Dolgos said it recently gave a presentation at the senior center where an elderly woman pointed them in the direction of a wheelchair-bound man who spent his whole life in the community and has never had a smoke detector in his house.

“Within 10 minutes of the presentation, Adam was over there installing smoke detectors throughout the house,” Dolgos said.

Fire prevention coordinator Adam Seczech shows off the features of the fire safety trailer, including a demonstration of how to use a fire extinguisher to put out a kitchen fire. The kitchen in the trailer uses LED lights to mimic fire with heat lamps and smoke for added situational awareness. (Anthony J. Mazziotti III/The Sun)

There’s a method when deciding which neighborhoods will be receiving visits from the fire department to check on the smoke alarm situation. Dolgos said they, along with the American Red Cross, map out the high danger and hazardous areas. Seczech spoke about what the average visit is like.

“If we had a fire, we’ll go into that neighborhood, tell them why we’re here,” he said. “We take a look at what they have. If it’s older than 10 years, we’ll replace it for free.”

Seczech said it is recommended to have one on every floor and one in every bedroom, so in theory one house could be on the receiving end of multiple smoke alarms.

Their continuous work throughout the year does not go unnoticed.

“You stand out amongst any other partnership we have because you continuously are doing this beyond those Home Fire Campaign days and events,” Rodriguez said. “We appreciate that about you guys and Washington Township having that level of commitment and dedication to making homes safer.”

Being proactive in the community is of utmost importance in the eyes of both Dolgos and Seczech. One of the free smoke alarms they installed in a house on Ptolemy Court went off because a bathroom fan caught fire. The free smoke alarm actually saved a life and house that day.

“People don’t think about fire until it happens,” Seczech said.

It is equally as important to have a plan in place in the event of a home fire. Seczech said 40 years ago a person could have 17 to 20 minutes to get out of a house. Today, a room can flashover in two minutes. Dolgos said fire size doubles every 30 seconds.

The examples above are the reasons smoke alarms are valuable, they will detect a fire in its early stages to give residents the chance to escape safely.

Through two years the Washington Township Fire Department has installed 1,000 free smoke alarms and it will continue to do so.

“The results were just outstanding,” Dolgos said. “This magic number 1,000 goes a long way. We really appreciate everybody’s assistance with that.”

Anthony is a graduate of Rowan University and a proud freelance contributor for 08108 magazine. He has past bylines in The Sun Newspapers and the Burlington County Times.

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