By Marcia Antipa
Red Cross Free Smoke Alarms Alert Marin County Family During House Fire
“I said, ‘A fire! A fire! Let’s get out. Everybody get out!’”
Marie Monthier will never forget what happened in the early morning hours of September 3, 2023. She and her extended family of two older adults, two adult children and two small grandchildren were asleep in their mobile home in Marin County, California. Marie got up to use the restroom and heard smoke alarms blaring. That’s when she saw a fire behind the kitchen stove and alerted her family to evacuate.
Marie’s son, David Hardy, had just moved into his own apartment in Marin County. When his mother called him after everyone got out of the house safely, David rushed over and found the home in ruins and his family in shock.
“The whole family was on the street, standing, looking at the house burning down. My mom said, ‘Look at my house!’ Tears started coming out of my eyes,” David said.
Fortunately, just five months earlier, a team from the Red Cross had installed free smoke alarms in the home. The “Sound the Alarm” event at Contempo Marin Mobile Home Park in April was part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. This national program is designed to save lives from home fires through the installation of free smoke alarms and fire safety education.
Red Cross volunteer Kay Tsenin organized the Sound the Alarm event at Contempo Marin. “At every Sound the Alarm I say, ‘Let’s go save some lives!’” she shared enthusiastically. Saving lives with smoke alarms is not just an abstract concept: since the inception of the Home Fire Campaign in October 2014, volunteers have installed more than 2.5 million free smoke alarms nationwide in partnership with local fire departments and have documented 1,969 lives saved thanks to those alarms and fire safety education. Volunteers Ellen Seh and John Cullison from Marin County installed the alarms in Marie’s home and taught the family how to get out safely during a fire.
“It brings tears to my eyes that I could have that impact on somebody’s life. It really brings it home; it just goes to show you what an impact this work has,” shared Ellen upon learning about the family’s lives being saved. For Kay, the campaign is a team effort. “When people sign up to get smoke alarms installed, somebody has to call them; somebody has to set up the appointment, and they’re equally as important as the person who drove the screw into that wall.”