OTTUMWA — While scoops of ice cream soothed everyone's sweet tooth, a more serious message sat behind an annual fundraiser: everyone, no matter their income level, needs a smoke detector in their home.
Evans Middle School's student council hosted the sixth annual "Fire and Ice" Ice Cream Social at the north fire station Monday night, the proceeds from which will be used to provide free smoke detectors to homeowners throughout Wapello County.
"We're raising money for people who can't afford smoke detectors," said eighth-grader Sydney Damerval. "One year we saved a house. The money we make here buys smoke detectors for people, and one of ours was in the house that burned down a couple years ago."
In a spurt of fires throughout the month of April in Ottumwa, firefighters discovered that every home either didn't have a smoke detector or the smoke detector didn't have batteries. Five structure fires in four days had the Ottumwa Fire Department on alert and eager to warn the community about what could happen if a home is lacking a smoke detector.
In some cases, pure luck saved the lives of Ottumwans unaware their home was ablaze. A few weeks ago, an 8-year-old girl saved her grandmother and great-grandmother after a fire that started in the kitchen began blocking the only exit.
"They had no working smoke detectors," Mike Craff, assistant fire chief, previously told the Courier. "If it hadn't been for this 8-year-old girl being up and awake, I don't know that they would have made it out of there."
A house fire last weekend also demonstrated the importance of working smoke detectors. Four adults and three children were uninjured in a blaze that ruined their home at 621 S. Sheridan Ave. at 5:51 p.m. Friday.