GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– Hundreds of homeowners in Grand Rapids are able to sleep a bit more soundly after benefiting from a one-of-a-kind fire prevention program. It came through one of the biggest fire grants in the country.
It`s an experience homeowner Janette Young has been through before: house fires. Now, living in an older home, she worries about her family`s safety.
‘It’s an old house,” said Young. “A lot of wood. Just scary not to have any smoke detectors.”
The Grand Rapids Fire Department looked into where most house fires were happening. Many of them occurred in 5 neighborhoods: Creston, Garfield Park, the Southeast Community, West Grand and the Southeast side. The department is being proactive by using a $400,000 FEMA grant. They`re going into 2000 homes in these neighborhoods and installing smoke detectors.
“Most of the homes we`re going into are not fully out-fitted, it at all,” said project director, Kim Panter. “We`ve had many homes we have gone into that don`t have any [smoke detectors] or the batteries have been taken out. We`re installing 10 year, sealed lithium batteries so they’re not able to be popped out and they’re in the home and they’re good for 10 years.”
As the department goes into these homes, they`re also checking for things that could potentially cause fires. When in the basement, fire fighters remind folks to keep anything flammable away from sources of heat, like the furnace and water heater. Also, they urge homeowners to keep covers on the fuse box. That way, in case of a short, exposed wires with a tendency to shoot sparks, won’t catch nearby items on fire.
As they head upstairs, fire official Marty Ogrodzinski notices several extension cords in Young’s home. As with many older homes, electrical outlets are few and far between.
“I don’t ever recommend the use of extension cords as a source of permanent electricity,” said Ogrodzinski. “They’re exposed. People will step on them and trip. If they get underneath the carpet they can start to heat up and cause a fire that way.’
Now that the inspection is over, fire fighters install smoke detectors. They remind homeowners that a detector should be placed in the basement, at least one on the main floor, and one in each bedroom, as well as outside the common sleeping area.
Homeowners say the grant is money well spent.
“Even $6 a piece, for all the rooms we have, it would have been expensive to do,” said a grateful Young. “For them to do it for nothing is awesome.’
To qualify for free smoke detectors and a home inspection, homeowners must live in one of the specific neighborhoods listed above. Homeowners can call 616-456- 3966.