Terry Bookey, Kenai firefighter and Home Fire Safety Improvement Project program coordinator, installs a stove top extinguisher in the home of Kenai resident Shelley Bormann on Saturday. Free fire safety equipment is being provided to 100 homes within the city of Kenai.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
A fire can engulf a home in minutes taking anything and everything in the structure with it, including human lives. But the Alaska Home Fire Safety Improvement Project aims to make sure that doesn't happen.
"We want to make more homes fire safe," said Terry Bookey, program coordinator for the Kenai Fire Department.
The project a joint effort between the Alaska Division of Fire Prevention and the Kenai Fire Department is designed to reduce fire deaths by placing free fire safety equipment in 100 homes within the city of Kenai.
"It's not just putting in the equipment and saying see you later, though. We're also talking to the homeowners to teach them about fire safety and surveying for fire hazards while we're there," Bookey said.
Equipment provided through the program includes a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, surge protectors, stove top extinguisher, kitchen timer, bath water temperature card, fire safety booklet and video and a fire escape ladder for residents living in multiple story structures.
"The cost of the equipment would be around $369 if they were to purchase it on their own, but we're providing it free of charge," Bookey said.
He explained the inception of the project was the work of Jodie Hettrick, public education coordinator for the state fire marshal's office, who put in a grant to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in an attempt to reduce fire deaths throughout Alaska.
"Typically, Alaska has a high rate of home fire-related deaths compared to the rest of the U.S.," Bookey said.
"On the average, about 19 people die in fires annually in Alaska, four of whom are under the age of 11. This year we've had 12 fire deaths throughout the state."
Statistics have shown that a lack of fire detection and prevention equipment played a role in the fatalities.
"From 1993 to 2003, it was recorded that in homes with fire fatalities, about 82 percent did not have smoke detectors or have detectors that didn't work," Bookey said.
In the city of Kenai, there have been five fire deaths over the last 10 years, but Bookey said his goal is to have zero in future years.
"I've already gone into a few homes and walked out knowing the home was safer than when I went in," he said.
A carbon monoxide detector is another piece of fire safety equipment being given through the project.
Photos by Joseph Robertia
The program has proven successful in other areas of the state, where it already has been implemented, Bookey said.
He said in Ketchikan, a homeowner who received the equipment had a fire just days later.
"A smoke alarm signaled the man, and he was able to use an extinguisher to put out the fire. Just the fact that it already saved one life, the program is 100-percent successful in my eyes," Bookey said.
In Kenai, fire surveys and equipment installation began last week, and Shelley Bormann was one of the first of 50 residents who has signed up for the program so far.
"I feel a lot safer now," Bormann said after taking part in the fire survey and having prevention equipment installed.
"The firemen that came were very nice and knowledgeable. They pointed out several things that were just out of sight and out of mind to me. It's prompted me to get things like my furnace checked more regularly," she said.
"Also, the equipment they provided would have been very expensive to buy, but I've got kids to think of, so I really needed it."
Kenai residents interested in taking part in the project still may apply at the Kenai Fire Department.
"We would like to encourage as many people as possible to come in and fill out the one page application. The more interest we get, the more equipment and funding we can request, and the more we can promote similar programs in the coming years," Bookey said.
Central Emergency Services and the Nikiski Fire Department also are participating in the program and have each been allotted equipment for 100 homes.
Interested residents should apply at the facility providing fire service to their area.
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