“Thank, you,” he said to Assistant Chief Jason Patrick, Lieutenant Kenneth Hollowell and firefighter Ben Sloan. “I’ve never seen anything like this. We love you in this neighborhood.”
It was something Graves wasn’t expecting on a Saturday morning. “I think it’s awesome. They’ve done a lot for the community. Those guys are heroes.”
He said to the firefighters canvassing the neighborhood, “I want you guys to understand how much you’re appreciated.”
The effort was an initiative by the Office of the State Fire Marshal after fires have claimed 91 lives across the state since January. Last year there were 83 fire deaths across the state.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done this,” Fire Prevention Specialist Jan Parker told firefighters and members of the American Red Cross who assembled at Station 1 on Roanoke Avenue. “We want to build awareness.”
(The Roanoke Rapids Fire Department has smoke detectors on hand and residents in the department’s coverage area who don’t have them or have devices in which in the batteries have expired may call 252-533-2880 for a replacement)
The aim of the day was to distribute and install 250 smoke alarms in neighborhoods with with significantly older homes, Patrick said. “A lot of houses in the mill village are 80 to 100-years-old. It’s all about saving lives. A smoke detector is the first notification of fire.”
By the end of the effort, Patrick said the volunteers ended up installing 100 smoke detectors in 62 houses. “We found 34 non-working smoke alarms which were either out-of-date or just not working. We went to 24 homes which didn’t have smoke detectors at all.”
While the detectors do not aid in fire suppression efforts, Patrick said, “We push them because of safety. It’s an early warning device which gives them an opportunity to get of a burning house.”
Over in the South Rosemary area, Glenn Bobbitt was pleased the firefighters and Red Cross members came by. “Everything is good,” he said. “I feel a little bit safer now.”
James Tilley, who serves as an American Red Cross lead for 20 counties in the area, said the Red Cross has a partnership with the state Department of Insurance to install detectors.
The partnership, he said, has resulted in some 400 lives said over a three-year span.
Patrick said Chief Stacy Coggins believed in the effort. “Chief Coggins has been working on this in conjunction with the Office of the State Fire Marshall for several months. Roanoke Rapids was chosen with two other locations to have the assistance of Office of the State Fire Marshal to help with this campaign.
“Chief Coggins saw the benefits of this program that would be very beneficial in our older neighbors throughout the city and we value the participation of the American Red Cross and the Roanoke Rapids Police Department for stepping up in this valuable effort. The effort Saturday benefited greatly from the staff of the Office of the State Fire Marshal who were on hand to assist us.”