The Ottumwa Courier

October 24, 2012

Spreading fire prevention message key to saving lives

By Krystal Fowler - Lifestyle editor
Daily Iowegian

CENTERVILLE — The Red Cross and Centerville Fire Department joined together with community volunteers to help spread an important message in Centerville: Fire prevention is key to saving lives.

“Fire prevention is not important until you have a fire,” said State Fire Marshal Ray Reynolds. “Then it’s the most important thing for the rest of your life.”

Reynolds was in Centerville to lend a hand with the volunteer effort whose goal was to deliver Red Cross bags filled with fire prevention information to each home in Centerville, 2,241 in all.

According to Centerville Fire Chief Mike Bogle, the effort was a success, and he believes volunteers made it to every home.

The city was divided into 13 areas. Groups of seven, including five volunteers, one fire fighter and one Red Cross worker were assigned to each area.

Tony Burke, Red Cross chapter support officer for Ottumwa, Ames and Marshalltown, helped coordinate the effort with the Centerville Fire Department.

Reynolds said with the onset of cold weather and the recent string of fires in the area, Centerville seemed like a good fit for the fire prevention effort. There is usually an uptick in fires during the first few weeks of cold weather.

“This is about empowering our communities to be ready,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds became state fire marshall in April of 2010 and said five children died in fires in Iowa that year. Since then it has been his mission to stop fire related deaths.

According to Reynolds fire prevention is one of the most important aspects of a firefighter’s job, but also one of the most difficult. That’s why programs like this are important. They help educate the public about what options they have and what to do to help stop fires before they happen.

Many people might not be aware that they can contact the Centerville Fire Department to receive smoke alarms if they do not have them in their homes. Chief Bogle on Sunday afternoon said the Fire Department had received eight phone calls about smoke detectors so far since the canvas was completed.

Reynolds said one of his major goals is to get a smoke alarm in every child’s home. To do that fire departments use events like the city canvassing to raise awareness in communities. Reynolds said he is aware of 197 people who have been saved by smoke detectors. Most were involved in home fires at night and wouldn’t have woken up without the alarm.

Firefighters are also holding more fun events to raise fire prevention awareness, such as this summer at the Iowa State Fair when a group set a new Guinness World Record for Most People who Stopped, Dropped and Rolled at one time.

On Saturday, volunteers were happy to help spread the fire prevention message and an assembly line of people helped stuff the information bags that morning before the canvas groups set out.

Several groups of young people including members of Boy Scout Troop #33, FFA, student council and members of the sophomore class at Centerville High School came out to be part of the effort. Volunteers were provided lunch at the Fire Station after they returned from their canvasing.