Baker using federal grant for home fire safety devices

The Baker Fire Department is using a federal grant for an ambitious fire safety project — outfitting every home in the city with a fire extinguisher and combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector.

“It would be unprecedented for a Louisiana fire department if they could do it. I haven’t heard of any departments do it with that kind of scope,” said Kenny P. Hunts, president of the Louisiana Fireman’s Association’s executive board and an assistant chief at the Brusly Fire Department.

State Fire Marshal Butch Browning called the plan “ambitious.”

“It’s an innovative idea,” Browning said. “ Fire departments all over the state have used grant money for smoke detectors but nothing like this.”

Baker Fire Chief Danny Edwards said he applied for a Federal Emergency Management Agency Fire Prevention and Safety Grant in January and found out the agency was awarded $115,000 for the project in September.

Edwards and Baker Fire Department spokesman Howard Ward said they have ordered 3,000 fire extinguishers and 3,000 of the combination detectors.

The city of Baker has a population of just under 15,000 with close to 5,000 households, Edwards said.

“It’s going to be a lot of work. It will probably take anywhere from three to six months to complete,” Edwards said.

The ultimate goal is to have every home in the city outfitted with a fire extinguisher and smoke and carbon monoxide detector by no later than September 2014, Edwards said.

The fire protection devices should be shipped soon, Ward said.

The department plans a marketing campaign to get the word out including an open house meeting at the main fire station on Groom Road to kick it off and then some town hall meetings, Edwards said.

Edwards said the Baker Council on Aging as well as the five members of the Baker City Council will forward the names of some residents who need the devices.

Ward said the fire department will not be handing out the devices for residents to pick up.

“We need to go out to each residence and install them and educate residents on how to use them properly,” Ward said.

The plan also entails going to door to door to install the devices.

Data shows that working smoke detectors saves lives.

Browning said his agency works between 85 and 100 fatal fires in Louisiana each year. He said 80 percent of them involve the lack of a working smoke detector.

Browning’s agency has installed about 30,000 smoke detectors in homes around the state over the last three years.

“We need more plans like this,” Browning said, referring to Baker’s plan .

“You have all kinds of ways that fires start but if you have a working smoke detector, that’s what will get you out of there regardless of the how the fire starts,” Browning said.

Ward said the department will keep a data base of every address in the city that gets the devices in case FEMA needs that information for verification.

“The people in the city are a bit older, you have a quite a bit of retired people here. So you may have people with smoke detectors but we want to make sure they are working,” Ward said, “and if not we can install new ones.”

Depending on how the smoke detector plan goes, Edwards said he has an even more ambitious plan for the future — home sprinklers in every home in the city.