By Dana Simmons, American Red Cross
Home fires claim seven lives a day in the U.S. but working smoke alarms can cut the risk of death by half. That’s why the American Red Cross is installing free smoke alarms and sharing fire safety information through the Home Fire Campaign. This critical work is made possible with the support of partners including the Escondido Fire Department. In 2022, the Escondido Fire Department teamed up for two Sound the Alarm smoke alarm installation events and just months later in 2023, three lives were saved.
In March 2022, the Escondido Fire Department and the Red Cross installed 205 smoke alarms in 70 Escondido homes. In August 2023, the Escondido Fire Department responded to a kitchen fire and the resident was alerted of the fire thanks to smoke alarms that were installed at the event.
“It feels amazing that the alarms we installed saved lives,” said LaVona Koretke, Deputy Fire Marshall for the Escondido Fire Department. Koretke has participated in seven Sound the Alarm events and loves hearing about the smoke alarm installation success stories and interacting with the community. “It’s great that our work that we’re doing is worthwhile and helping even just one person is a great joy.” But the Escondido Fire Department’s lifesaving actions didn’t stop after saving one life.
Alexandra Vasquez, Fire Prevention Specialist for the Escondido Fire Department, has participated in three Sound the Alarm events. She loves providing fire safety information to help keep residents prepared for disasters of all types. Vasquez was on a smoke alarm installation team at a Sound the Alarm event in October 2022 where teams installed 286 smoke alarms in 132 Escondido homes. In February 2023, the Escondido Fire Department responded to a cooking fire at an Escondido residence and thanks to smoke alarms that Vasquez and her team installed, the two residents were able to get out of their home safely.
Vasquez was elated when she heard the news that she helped save two lives. “I’m excited that we were able to be a part of that team,” Vasquez said. “I hope that we’re able to continue this partnership in the future to be able to install more smoke alarms for residents in the community.”
This lifesaving work wouldn’t be possible without partners like the Escondido Fire Department. “The collaboration with the Red Cross and the Escondido Fire Department is so important in working together,” said Escondido Fire Chief John Tenger. “We’re allowed to reach out to more folks and work together as a team to get all the houses that we possibly can working smoke alarms.”
In addition to the home fire preparedness collaboration, the Red Cross also partners with fire departments during home fire responses. After a home fire, Red Cross volunteers connect with affected families for needs like emergency lodging, financial assistance and emotional support.
“We’re here as public servants and were supposed to protect and serve the community and knowing that all the efforts we put in collaboration with the Red Cross to get these working smoke alarms into homes and actually having saved people's lives,” said Chief Tenger. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s about saving people’s lives and we’re super thankful for that.”