Free smoke alarm drive extended

Most homes have no working detector, seniors most at risk

Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis is also president of the Fire Chiefs Association of B.C.

More smoke alarms are being handed out across B.C. as part of a campaign to reduce preventable deaths from house fires.

It’s being spearheaded by the Fire Chiefs Association of B.C. and president and Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis says the free smoke detector giveaway is targeting the elderly, aboriginals and other low-income or vulnerable residents.

“These folks are truly at risk and we have to be very diligent and mindful of that,” said Garis. “Working smoke alarms save lives.”

Research led by Garis with the University of the Fraser Valley found 70 per cent of fires over the past five years happened in homes with no working smoke detector.

He noted seniors make up nearly a third of B.C. residents who die in fires even though they comprise only 15 per cent of the population.

“It’s extremely disturbing,” Garis said of the findings.

The campaign, backed by the provincial and federal governments and corporate donors, has so far pulled together 11,500 smoke alarms that are being distributed by fire departments around the province.

Smoke alarm make Kidde Canada provided the initial 5,000 detectors and deep discounts on future purchases.

The latest contribution came from Super Save Group, whose $20,000 bought another 4,000 Kidde alarms.

Black Press is a campaign partner, donating advertising to promote fire safety. More information on the campaign can be found at www.fcabc.ca.

While many homes have smoke detectors, Garis notes too few people check them regularly.

All smoke detectors should be replaced after 10 years and batteries should be changed annually.

Garis is also pushing the province to find ways to get more sprinkler systems into apartment buildings after a fire at a Langley apartment building killed an 80-year-old resident earlier this year.

Residents of buildings with no sprinkler systems are much more likely to die in a fire.

Garis said a five-year survey found 23.1 deaths per 1,000 fires in unsprinklered buildings in B.C., compared to 1.2 deaths per thousand in sprinklered buildings.