Division of Fire Prevention
STATE OF ALASKA -- According to the Alaska Division of Fire Prevention, more than 70 percent of all structure fires in the State occur in the home.
In 2003, the Fire Prevention Grant of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program awarded funds to the Alaska State Fire Marshal's Office and the Division of Fire Prevention to address this problem and implement the Alaska Home Fire Safety Improvement Project. With this funding, fire departments in 17 communities throughout Alaska have been working to eliminate fires in the home by conducting free home fire safety inspections and installing free fire safety equipment. During the inspections, firefighters look for potential fire hazards, make suggestions for eliminating or reducing the hazards, and provide and/or install fire safety products, such as smoke alarms, kitchen fire extinguishers, kitchen timers, carbon monoxide detectors, fire escape ladders, etc.
Huslia has a volunteer fire department and was one of the communities selected to participate in the Alaska Home Fire Safety Improvement Project. The City of Huslia is a very small community of 300 people living in a remote section of central Alaska. The town lies within the Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge. "I am glad that we were able to help these families out as some of them had no fire prevention in their homes," says Huslia firefighter and project manager Elsie Vent.
A Program Save--Ester Volunteer Fire Department
One fire safety inspection and one smoke alarm provided as a result of Fire Prevention Grant project funding was responsible for saving the life of a woman in rural Alaska. In fall of 2004, the Ester Volunteer Fire Department conducted safety inspections and installed smoke alarms and other safety equipment as part of the Alaska Home Fire Safety Improvement Project.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (February 17, 2005) published an account of the incident. In fall of 2004, Lt. Kris Chandler, an Ester VFD firefighter, visited Ruby Graham, a woman who had requested a home fire safety inspection. The woman admitted that she had owned a smoke alarm before but removed the batteries because the alarm would start when she was cooking. Lt. Chandler conducted the inspection and installed a new smoke alarm, making sure it was far enough away from the kitchen that cooking could not accidentally trigger the alarm.
In February 2005, the smoke alarm went off in the middle of the night, awakening Graham. The News-Miner reported that Graham, seeing smoke, put on coat and shoes, picked up her dog, and ran outside. She woke up a neighbor and asked them to call 911. Before the fire department could arrive, the fire had totally destroyed the house. Although she lost her house, which was uninsured, Graham was grateful to be alive and credits the smoke alarm with saving her life.
In addition to the Ester VFD, four other fire departments in the Fairbanks North Star Borough have been participating in the Home Fire Safety project: Chena-Goldstream Fire Rescue, Fairbanks Fire Department, North Star Volunteer Fire Department (North Pole), and Steese Volunteer Fire Department (Fairbanks).
With the grant funds, these fire departments have been able to provide both fire protection and home fire safety inspections to communities in the Borough, which includes the cities of Fairbanks and North Pole and the surrounding rural areas; it covers about 7,300 square miles and is home to more than 80,000 people.
What they bought with the grant:
- Alaska Home Fire Safety Improvement Project
- Fire safety inspection training
- Home fire safety inspections
- Educational materials
- Smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and other fire safety products