In celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Day of Service, the local Red Cross teamed up with Councilmember Marti Emerald’s office, the San Diego Fire Department and the Burn Institute to deploy a team of volunteers into the communities of Mt. Hope and Mountain View on Saturday, January 16. Volunteers canvassed neighborhoods to educate residents on fire preparedness and install free smoke alarms.
Outreach for the MLK Day of Service was focused on the Mount Hope and Mountain View communities largely because it was where a devastating home fire took the life of 12-year-old Fernando Vasquez Castro and badly burned his two younger siblings. The family wanted to help prepare their neighbors, in hopes of preventing other families from experiencing the same tragedy that has caused them so much grief.
One neighbor, whose son went to school with Fernando, said he is very thankful for the two smoke alarms that volunteers installed in his home. Other grateful neighbors include a 92-year-old woman who lives alone and said she feels much safer knowing that she will be alerted if a fire breaks out in her home, and a family with two babies who have lived in their apartment for 10 years without any smoke alarms, before receiving them on Saturday.
“People may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home,” said Fire Chief Brian Fennessy. “It is important to install smoke alarms on every level of your home, test them each month and replace batteries once a year.”
Overall, volunteers installed 132 smoke alarms in 38 households during the Day of Service. Councilmember Emerald told the crowd of volunteers, “You are doing more than installing a piece of equipment. You are serving as a change agent to save a life.”
On average, seven people die every day n the United States from a home fire. In an effort to reduce this staggering number, the American Red Cross launched a nationwide Home Fire Campaign in October 2014. The campaign is aimed at reducing the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent over a five-year period. Since the start of the campaign, more than 2,000 smoke alarms have been installed in San Diego and 27 lives have been saved nationwide.
“We saved lives today,” said Red Cross volunteer Cyndy Hoffman, who has participated in multiple smoke alarm installation events. “Every time I do it, I feel so fortunate to be participating in something so important.”
For more information on the Home Fire Campaign and for a worksheet to help your family create a fire escape plan, visit redcross.org/firesafety.