Berrien Springs fire department gives away free smoke alarms - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Berrien Springs fire department gives away free smoke alarms

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The loss of a young life spurred the Berrien Springs Oronoko Fire Department into action. With over $100,000 in grant money, they want to make sure every home is up to code on their fire alarms. Which is why they have over 2,000 ready to install.

"I was the first one to sign up to do this," says Milton Richter who signed up for the free program and quickly found out his home wasn't up to code.

"I did not have any in the upstairs bedrooms so we're going to put two up there, everything else I think we've got covered," says Richter.

It took a tragedy in 2011 to kick start this program. A home went up in flames and took the life of a three year old girl.

Fire Chief Bruce Stover responded to that fire and says he remembers it well. "We turn the corner and arrive on the scene and the fire is blowing out all windows and at that instant we knew we lost a child."

He says the experience changed the department. "It's just horrible that we weren't able to save her. It was just a crushing blow to us because we're there to help people, we're there to get in there and save that child and we couldn't."

During the fire investigation that followed, Stover says they realized the family only had one smoke detector and it was in the kitchen drawer. "We believe that if there would have been adequate smoke detectors there, it should have made a difference in the outcome."

He says now they're determined to prevent a tragedy like that from happening again. And his department is making sure every home, like Richter's can be well-equipped with alarms.

"It does give you some peace of mind knowing you do have those smoke detectors in every room," says Richter.

Not only do the firefighters install fire alarms, but they check existing alarms and change all the batteries. If you live in Berrien Springs and want to put your home on the list, contact the department at 269-473-3731 for information.

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