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"I Know What Fire Can Do"

Red Cross Offering Free Smoke Alarms - and Peace of Mind
We went over a lot of stuff I had forgotten, general things like having an escape route.

In October 1995, June Cranney lost three cats and nearly lost her son because of a home fire caused by faulty wiring. One month later, Cranney and her family experienced another fire at a new home after her son’s dog knocked over a space heater.

And this February, one of June’s friends was hospitalized after a fire destroyed her Syracuse home that had no working smoke alarms.

So when Cranney saw a segment on WSYR-TV’s “Bridge Street” show about the American Red Cross’ Home Fire Campaign that includes the installation of free smoke alarms, she immediately called the Red Cross to make an appointment to have smoke alarms installed at her new home on Herriman Street in Syracuse (Onondaga County).

“I know what fire can do,” said June, a mother of three and grandmother of nine who moved into her new home in December with her son and cousin. “I feel a lot safer now.”

To make everyone feel safer, the American Red Cross recently launched an initiative to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by home fires by 25 percent over the next five years. The Red Cross is asking every household in America to take two simple steps: check existing smoke alarms and practice fire drills at home.

As part of the Home Fire Campaign, the Red Cross is also joining with fire departments and community groups nationwide to install free smoke detectors in homes that need them. Homes like June’s, and homes like Linda Goold’s mobile home in Richford (Broome County).

Red Cross volunteers recently installed two smoke alarms for Linda, who lives in the home with her two small dogs, a Jitsu/Dachshund mix named Little Miss and a Chihuahua named Diva. Like June, Linda has experienced the horror of a fire as her mobile home was destroyed by a fire in 1980 when she lived in New Mexico. Fortunately, no one was injured in that fire.

The Red Cross was notified that Linda didn’t have a smoke alarm by a representative from the Broome County Office For Aging who had visited Linda’s home.

“I’m thinking, “God, this is great,’ because right now I’ve been having trouble with Social Security and my monthly check won’t go far enough to buy anything extra,” Linda said.

As part of the smoke alarm installation, Red Cross volunteers or staff members also provide tips on how to prevent home fires and how to make an escape plan if there is a fire.

“We went over a lot of stuff I had forgotten, general things like having an escape route,” said Linda, who has four children and 10 grandchildren. “Getting out safely is the most important thing. Material things can be replaced.”

Connie Gelormini has lived in her home in Syracuse since it was built by her grandfather 95 years ago. Connie, who’ll turn 100 in September, lives downstairs with her daughter, Theresa Gelormini, who has Multiple Sclerosis and uses a wheelchair to get around.

Red Cross AmeriCorps member Casey Pfeffer and intern Ellyn Gloshinski recently visited Connie and Theresa to install smoke alarms in their downstairs living space and the upstairs living space used by Connie’s son, Michael. There has never been a fire in the home, but having the new smoke alarms gives Connie, Theresa and Michael peace of mind if a fire does occur.

“Seeing how happy they are makes it all worthwhile,” Ellyn said.

“It’s really about giving back to the community,” Casey said. “Not just preparedness information, but giving something back to save a life.”

To receive a free smoke alarm and schedule a free installation in Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga or Oswego County, please call the American Red Cross of Central New York at 315-234-2299 or email info.cny@redcross.org.

To support home fire survivors across the country, the American Red Cross has launched a new social media campaign called #GiveWhatFireTakes. Donors nationwide have the opportunity to support Red Cross relief efforts. For every amount raised, the Red Cross is able to provide not only recovery items for home fire survivors, but also critical fire safety training and smoke alarm installations to help prevent deaths and injuries. Visit our Crowdrise campaign page, make a direct donation on redcross.org and share what moved you to join the campaign on social media with #GiveWhatFireTakes.

Home Fire and Smoke Alarm Facts:

  • Home fires in the United States kill more than 2,500 people annually and cause an average of 13,000 injuries. (These figures do not include firefighter deaths or injuries.)
  • Home fires cause nearly $7 billion in property damage annually.
  • Smoke alarms are either missing or non-functional in 73 percent of rural home fires.
  • Nearly two-thirds of all fire-related deaths occur in homes that have no functioning smoke alarms.
  • Photos:

    Main: Red Cross AmeriCorps intern Ellyn Gloshinski provides home fire safety information to Connie Gelormini, of Syracuse.

    Preview on News: Rosemary Speech, of Liverpool, displays one of the free smoke alarms she received from the American Red Cross.

    Community Happenings: AmeriCorps member Casey Pfeffer installs a smoke alarm as part of the American Red Cross' Home Fire Campaign.