OTTUMWA — Receiving $21,640 is a big deal for the Ottumwa Fire Department.

With the recent donation from the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, the department plans to use the funds to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors inside Wapello County homes.

Homeowners can call the department to set up an appointment for free installation.

Assistant Chief Mike Craff said the department has installed smoke detectors for more than a decade but was running out of funds to continue the installation. For Craff and the crew, receiving the funds was perfect timing.

Craff and Fire Chief Tony Miller consider the installation necessary. Miller said the installation of a smoke detector saved two families.

“The alarms that we installed actually woke the families up,” Miller said. “I’m sure one of the fires there would have been fatality if it weren’t for the alarms. It’s definitely proved its worth. Smoke alarms are the first line of defense. Most people think that if you have a smoky fire it’s going to wake you up. In reality, people sleep through it. It doesn’t cost you actually nothing but a phone call for us to install it, and it can save your life.”

Craff recounted another close call. “Two weeks ago now we had a call because of a gas leak in a house,” he said. “Two ladies were taken to the hospital for a light on the furnace.” Craff said if it weren’t for the carbon monoxide detector, the two could have potentially died.

Carbon monoxide is especially dangerous at night. “CO just puts you into a deeper sleep and makes you tired and sick,” Craff said.

Craff said with winter coming, residents are much more at risk to get sick from carbon monoxide than in all other seasons. “Furnaces are kicking and stuff, that’s why it’s important for them to check their vents to the furnaces or water heaters. That gas cannot get out to the vents, a lot of times birds and snow can plug the vents.”

In order to stay safe, Craff recommends residents test their smoke detectors often. “Test your smoke alarms once a month, change your batteries twice a year,” he said. “When you change your clocks, you change your batteries. You should have a smoke alarm at least outside of the bedrooms, that you can hear it at night time when you’re sleeping. You should have the CO alarms near your furnaces and water heaters because that will leak first.”

Wapello County residents who don’t have a smoke or carbon monoxide detector can call the fire department for a free installation at 641-683-0666.

Chiara Romero can be reached at


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