Free smoke detectors available from city

A recent house fire that destroyed a local residence and put its owner in the hospital with severe burns is a reminder that the risk of structure fires greatly increases during the winter months.

Whether the cause is faulty Christmas tree ornaments, flammable materials next to heaters, or accidental ignition of heating fuels, cold weather situations increase the odds of a fire starting. The Bristol Fire Department went on over 2,300 calls last year with many of those in the winter months. Even though over 93 percent of those fires are held to minimal damage, there is still an estimated loss totaling more than $1.25 million.

The home destroyed last week is still being evaluated for the cause but one thing for certain is that it didn’t have any smoke alarms installed. Unfortunately, Bristol’s history of these types of fires is filled with tragedy. In 2014-2015, four fatalities resulted from fires in homes without smoke detectors.

“Fires don’t care what time of year it is or who it affects. The best way to fight a fire is prevention,” said Bristol Fire Chief Jay Kolakoski in a press release from the city of Bristol. ” Because cold weather affects everyone, we really encourage people to take advantage of a program we have that could give any Bristol resident a new fire or carbon monoxide (CO) alarm and our firefighters will come free of charge to provide the alarms and actually install them.”

The City of Bristol received two grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that concluded the Bristol Fire Department (BFD) is well equipped and trained to respond to the needs of the community. Especially with regard to the fire prevention program, the city’s press release said, the report noted the city was successfully targeting commercial properties but stated that, the BFD needs to target their public fire education efforts at high-risk populations and older buildings within the city. Residential fires occur most frequently in the dense, older sections of the city in areas primarily filled with modest single-family and multi-family homes.

Fatal fire events such as these have a devastating impact on a community, as well as on the families, neighbors, and fire personnel involved in the rescue efforts. The press release said the BFD is determined to address the lack of smoke alarms in older homes and to ramp up their efforts to make sure there are functioning alarms in every home through an educational campaign and the Smoke Detector Distribution Program.

With a grant from FEMA, the press release said the city has 10-year lithium battery smoke detectors available for free to homeowners who request them. Fire personnel will install as many smoke detectors as are needed in the home, usually three. One of these may include a CO detector as well, if the home has an oil heating system.

These units will be installed free of charge upon appointment with the BFD. Call (860)584-7964 ext. 4 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to schedule an appointment. Fire personnel from the station closest to your address will arrange to visit your home at a time convenient to you.