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Hall Fire Services, Red Cross team to distribute smoke alarms in Chicopee Village
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Sgt. David Truelove, with Hall County Fire Services, tests a newly installed smoke detector inside the home of Melissa Barnes, not pictured, during the Home Fire Campaign at Chicopee Village in Gainesville, on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Red Cross volunteers and members of Hall County Fire Services teamed up to inspect and install smoke detectors in the community. - photo by David Barnes

The Red Cross of Northeast Georgia and Hall County Fire Services worked side by side Saturday to provide residents in the Chicopee Village community with free smoke alarms and educate them on the importance of fire safety.

“The campaign’s goal is to make sure that there are no more fatalities in home fires,” said Matthew Akins of the American Red Cross of Georgia, who has partnered with Hall County Fire services for Home Fire Campaign events in Northeast Georgia for the past 3 1/2 years.

“Since Dec. 17 of last year, there have been four deaths due to fires in Northeast Georgia, and none of the homes were equipped with smoke alarms. We’ve also noticed that homes in poverty-stricken areas are more likely to not be equipped with alarms, and we are here to change that.

“If someone needs a smoke alarm, even if it’s not part of the Home Fire Campaign, they can call the Red Cross in Gainesville and we will provide them with one.”

Akins said many people mistakenly think they don’t need smoke alarms. After starting the campaign, six lives have been saved, he said.

“The first two lives we saved were in Lumpkin County,” he said. “An elderly man and woman were hesitant about letting us install smoke alarms because the neighbors had lost their kids earlier in the year, and they were more concerned about giving them to the neighbors, or someone else ‘more needy.’ A few months later, after they did let us install the alarms, it saved their life.”

Lt. Ryan Beasley of Station 4 said the campaign is also part of the community risk reduction program.

“These smoke alarm blitzes are one way that we can do our part to educate people and help them to stay safe,” he said. “It may be a preventative measure, but it’s an important one that can draw the line between a life or death situation.”

Hall County firefighter Louis Legier mentioned other communities aided by the program.

“This is the third big blitz in Northeast Georgia,” Legier said. “The first was at Countryside Village Mobile Home Park in October 2016. So far, that is the largest to date and it ended up being around 586 homes. Since then, we’ve also done one at Friendship Corners Condominiums.”

Nivita Sharma, a senior biology major at the University of Georgia, volunteers with the university’s Red Cross club and was partnered with Sgt. David Truelove and Firefighter/EMT Jason Korynoski in Group 10.

“The Home Fire Campaign started when I was a sophomore and I have been helping with it since it began,” Sharma said. “Volunteers and firefighters are typically divided into 12 or 14 groups and are responsible for going to a certain number of houses; my group is responsible for 16. Once we go to the houses, we try to make sure each has a maximum of three working smoke detectors.”

Among volunteers were members of the Red Cross of Northeast Georgia, UGA Red Cross, Hall County Fire services, Chicopee Baptist Church and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County.

The first house on the list for Group 10 belonged to Melinda Barnes, who was one of many thankful residents visited throughout the day.

“This program is an absolute blessing, especially for older people,” Barnes said. “It’s a great feeling knowing that the community cares about you enough to come out and make sure your home is properly equipped. The fact that they educate you about the alarms, show you how to test them, and make sure you have an escape route in case of a fire really helps, too. Most people just put up the alarms and hope they’re working.”

For more on fire safety resources and the Georgia Home Fire Campaign, visit www.redcross.org.

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